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Shelly Prosko: Science & Compassion

As a Physical Therapist and Professional Yoga Therapist, Shelly is dedicated to bridging the gap between yoga and modern healthcare philosophies and believes this integration is highly effective in creating and sustaining optimal health.

Shelly received her Physical Therapy degree at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, her Medical Therapeutic Yoga training at Professional Yoga Therapy Institute, yoga teacher training at Blissology, Pilates training at Professional Health and Fitness Institute, and Pain Care Yoga certification at Life is Now.

Shelly is a pioneer of PhysioYoga and has been integrating yoga into her physical therapy treatments since 1998 to help people who suffer from a wide variety of conditions including persistent pain and pelvic floor health issues.

Currently, she travels around the world offering specialty PhysioYoga courses, teaching Life is Now Pain Care Yoga, lecturing at medical college programs, presenting at international conferences and instructing at numerous therapeutic yoga programs.

Shelly is the co-founder of the Yoga in Healthcare Initiative and is dedicated to actively promoting the integration of yoga into our current healthcare system by inspiring, empowering and educating healthcare professionals, yoga practitioners, and the general population about ways yoga can be used safely and effectively to address a variety of health issues and improve quality of life.

1. What's the best continuing education course you've ever taken?

Medical therapeutic yoga for healthcare practitioners through Professional Yoga Therapy Institute has been the most transformative post-graduate training program for my career as a physiotherapist who integrates yoga into my professional practice.

 2. What's your favorite book?

I don’t have just one favourite. But one book that stands out and has influenced me is Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” - here's a short quote:

To make the journey into the Now we will need to leave our analytical mind and its false created self, the ego, behind. From the very first page of this extraordinary book, we move rapidly into a significantly higher altitude where we breathe a lighter air. We become connected to the indestructible essence of our Being, “The eternal, ever-present One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death.”

3. What advice would you give to your 25-year-old self?

To add context to this question: I was right in the middle of physiotherapy school when I was 25 years old!

Here are 20 pieces of advice for you, dear Shelly. Review regularly, because often you end up forgetting things you read only once:

  1. Stay present. Don’t spend so much of your time worrying about the future.
  2. Certainty is an illusion. You’ll be much more at peace if you understand this and can be comfortable with uncertainty.
  3. Practice gratitude daily and don’t be afraid to give. Acting from a space of scarcity and fear perpetuates more of the same. Act from a sense of abundance and gratitude.
  4. Don’t be attached to information you learn in physio school. Research evolves and information changes.
  5. Some of the most valuable learning in your physio career will be your clinical experience and what you learn from your patients. You’ll also find out: the more you learn, the more you realize the less you actually know.
  6. Don’t be so confident in believing your reasons of ‘why’ things work when they do. Stay curious, courageously vulnerable, ok with being wrong, and be patient. This will make you a more compassionate clinician (and person), and you’ll be better able to help your patients.
  7. Learn about self-compassion and how to practice it.
  8. Do what you can to enhance therapeutic relationships, patient self-efficacy and patient empowerment. They are important to help patients recover and sustain their desired function, self-manage their pain and thrive. You intuitively know and value this and will thoroughly enjoy this part of your work -- and research will support the importance of this --- so don’t worry about what some of your colleagues around you are doing and keep cultivating these in your patient interactions. You are on the right track!
  9. Take the time to listen in order to understand, instead of solely for the purpose of trying to fix or respond.
  10. Your role as a physiotherapist is to be an educator, guide and facilitator of the individual’s own healing. You do not ‘fix’ people. Do what you can to cultivate this process and help promote self-empowerment and active participation in rehab.
  11. You will experience burnout. You will want to quit your career and pack it in. Take care of yourself and trust you’ll find ways to change that result in a more sustainable career and way of living. Know you’re not alone. Your experience ends up being a gift later on in your career to help others who experience the same. Keep a journal of your challenges, so you can later share and help others who will be feeling the same.
  12. Continue your yoga practice and don’t give up on your dream of integrating yoga into your physio career. You will figure it out with the support and guidance of some incredible mentors. Be patient and enjoy creating a way of how to integrate the two. Your story and journey ends up helping other physiotherapists who want to do the same! The joy is in the adventure.
  13. You won’t have to continue the tedious and painstaking process of photocopying articles from encyclopedias and journals at the medical library for information! Something called the World Wide Web will provide more ease for lit reviews and gathering information.
  14. Immediately set boundaries on how you use and interact with new technology such as these things called ‘email, ‘smart phones’, and ‘social media’. They become your addictions; although they can make life more convenient and bring lots of joy, they also are great time suckers, distractions, procrastination tools, and sources of anxiety. So if you can do something to nip this addictive behaviour in the butt before you fall into the trap, you might experience more peace in your life.
  15. You will achieve some of the goals you set, and some you won’t. However, some incredible things will happen you would never have imagined in your wildest dreams. Stay true to your passions, know your intentions, always do your best, and stay connected to what you feel is authentically you --- and observe how things unfold.
  16. Continue to practice and deepen your knowledge of yoga. You will learn a great deal from it that helps you in all aspects of life.
  17. At any given moment, be present and give that moment your full attention.
  18. Spend quality time with those you truly love. That’s what is most important in life.
  19. Do your best to act from a place of love, especially when it’s not easy to do so.
  20. Trust that you’re right where you need to be.

3. What's something you recently learned that you're really excited to implement?

I have been learning more about the science of compassion and how practicing the components of compassion (including self-compassion) may help with persistent pain management. I recently took an online course with Dr. Kristin Neff and have been experimenting with some of the self-compassion practices myself, as well as sharing some of these methods with other clinicians and patients. I'm very excited to take a course this fall with Dr. Gabor Mate on "Compassionate Inquiry for Therapists and Healthcare Professionals" and then share what I learn with fellow colleagues and patients.

4. Why did you decide to join the Embodia Academy instructor community?

As the instructing and speaking aspects of my career progress, I enjoy sharing my knowledge, skills and experience on a variety of platforms. Online platforms are a great way to reach and educate clinicians and share the work we are doing to advance our profession. I choose organizations like Embodia because they have sincere and genuine intentions of providing high quality and evidence-informed continuing education with respectable and engaging course providers.
Embodia is professional, organized, flexible, accessible and extremely easy to work with. I am humbled and honoured to be part of such an incredible community.

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Shelly Prosko

Shelly is a physiotherapist, yoga therapist, educator and pioneer of PhysioYoga with over 20 years of experience integrating yoga into rehabilitation with a focus on helping people suffering from chronic or persistent pain, pelvic health conditions and professional burnout. She guest lectures at yoga and physiotherapy programs, presents at yoga therapy and medical conferences globally, provides mentorship to health providers, offers onsite and online continuing education courses for yoga and health professionals and is a Pain Care U Yoga Trainer. She maintains a clinical practice in Sylvan Lake, Canada and believes that cultivating meaningful connections, compassion and joy can be powerful contributors to recovery and well-being. Shelly is co-editor of the book Yoga and Science in Pain Care: Treating the Person in Pain. 

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