In blog

While yoga has been around for centuries, the recent attention on the need for everyday movement quality in modern societies has an increasing number of physical therapists using it as part of their healing toolbox. It makes sense – we all know that a regular yoga practice can improve strength, balance, flexibility of mind, body and so much more. People of all ages and backgrounds can certainly benefit from this, especially as society (the DMV-area, in particular!) has become tethered to ill-designed desks and inordinate car-bound commutes.

This absolutely resonates with Helena Workneh, DPT, who is both a licensed physical therapist who practices at Howard University Hospital and a certified Bikram yoga instructor at the Bikram Yoga Works (BYW).  She takes an integrated approach to both her therapy sessions and instructor duties, helping people move and feel better.

Let’s take a moment to hear more about Helena’s approach and just how she is another example of the expertise that BYW offers its studio members…

Question:   How long have you been teaching Bikram yoga and what led you to this practice?

Certified Bikram Yoga Instructor

I had been familiar with Bikram Yoga for some time (my sister started first) before a friend/co-worker convinced me to actually try it in 2010. At the time I had just completed a half marathon, which my knees didn’t take too well. I’ve always loved running so I just trained, then ran 13 miles. I didn’t think I needed any guidance on how to run with good form, consider the anatomy of my feet, the best shoes to support that amount of running for my feet, etc. I thought my passion was enough (Ha!). I decided to give Bikram yoga a try since I needed to help heal my knees and also get the same kind of challenge I was accustomed to getting from running. Needless to say by July 2012, I was a certified instructor.

Question: What drew you to the field of physical therapy?

I knew my undergraduate degree in Information & Decision Sciences was not exactly in line with my true calling because I did everything but pursue a job in the field after graduation. Instead I spent the following 4-5 years exploring what kinds of things I felt excited about. Once I realized I’m happiest when spending time face to face with people, it was a matter of which healthcare field would be the best fit. I chose PT because it would allow me to build on my passion for learning about human anatomy, movement, exercise and helping people.

Questions: Are there benefits of being an instructor and also a PT and vice versa?

Bikram Yoga Student

Yes, for me it’s the best of both worlds. My experience and training in both settings helps me see the larger picture and be able to deliver the vital information that I am trying to convey. I am better able to tailor a personalized treatment plan or help clients understand their body structure to improve their practice.

Question: What are your highlights from teaching at BYW?

What I see in BYW is an organization that demonstrates strength and dedication to service so well that it has built a community that not only embraces this important concept, but also seems to be progressing alongside it to build a thriving society. Everywhere I look, I see fruits of the effort and hard work that each team member puts into making BYW a place of growth for everyone.  BYW serves everyone from kids to high-level executives, underserved communities from different backgrounds to young adults and athletes of all levels – everyone! I personally appreciate this because the concept of mindfulness, self care and even physical therapy can seem intimidating and out of reach. I feel that being a part of the BYW community is a step towards progress in changing that.

Question: What is the most surprising thing or experience you have encountered during this journey.

When I decided to go to teacher training, I was already preparing to go to PT school. I thought that it would be a natural fit since both fields were centered on healing, improving and optimizing the body and mind. I was disappointed to find that significant miscommunication exists between the two fields and often results in resistance from both sides towards the other discipline. However, the more I understand the reason behind this disconnect, I am encouraged to help improve the narrative so that the focus remains on the target, which is how we can best help people move better and care for their wellbeing.

Helena Workneh, PT, DPT

Helena is a licensed Physical Therapist, Doctor of Physical Therapy and certified Bikram Yoga instructor. She’s an Ethiopan native via Chicago (17yrs in the windy city!) moved to Washington DC 4 years ago to earn her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Howard University. Helena’s passion for movement, meditation and body awareness drives her personal and professional life. She currently works as a staff Therapist at Howard University Hospital and teaches part-time at the BYW studios.  Helena left her desktop job 7 years ago to become a certified Bikram Yoga instructor as a way to initiate her journey into the field of healthcare.  Having completed more than 8 years of practice, 6+ years teaching BY and becoming a PT in 2017, she now aims to bridge the gap between rehabilitative and preventative/wellness practices.  In this unique position, she is able to focus on helping individuals optimize their mobility, wellness and education through guidance in movement both in the clinic and studio settings.  You can find Helena at Ivy City and Takoma Park locations.  Click HERE to schedule a class.

Reference:  Yoga as Physical Therapy Intervention and Future Direction for Yoga Research


BikramYogaWorks studios are independently owned and operated and each location was conceived with YOU in mind. Our intention is to provide you with an exceptional experience from the moment you walk into our studios until you leave our doors. Our state-of-the art facilities offer a friendly environment and several amenities for your comfort and convenience, including plenty of parking, spacious locker rooms and ample showers and a networking zone to meet fellow yogis and like-minded individuals. We also offer a range of classes to meet your needs including Bikram Yoga, LifeStretch, Hot Pilates, and Hot Barre. Wellness services include Cryotherapy (full body and localized), PEMF Therapy (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field), and Fascia Stretch Therapy (FST).

5 locations: Riverdale Park, MD, Ivy City, Takoma Park, MD, Ivy City Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD, Boston, MS and District Heights, MD OPENING SOON!

Scarlett Salem | BYW Work Study | Contributing Writer | Blogger

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