How yoga therapists work: From physical therapist to yoga therapist

This post, part of our “how yoga therapists work” series, is about how a physical therapist (PT) and current yoga therapy student recognized yoga’s healing potential and became determined to share it with others.

By Jayme Nagle

I began yoga through asana, or physical, practice at college and a Rodney Yee VHS tape from my mom. After college, I became a licensed PT and the spouse of a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, which took me on a 15-year worldwide journey. Although my PT career was inconsistent because of frequent moves and my role as the primary caregiver to our children, the experience provided me with the opportunity to observe the benefits and challenges of allopathic medicine and has been an integral part of my path to yoga therapy.  

Starting on the path

After a transformational emotional response in a yoga class, I started to go deeper into the practices, with breathwork, meditation, and philosophy. This discovery of yoga’s reach beyond the physical plane, combined with inspiration from yoga teachers in my life, led me to become a yoga teacher myself. In 2016, I attended a yoga teacher training course that explored the neuroscience of trauma and mental health and how yoga can support these common human challenges. At the time I had been struggling with generalized and social anxiety. I found it empowering to become aware of the neurobiology of my struggles and to realize that there were practices that could nurture me, and—most importantly—that I was capable of healing.  

Building awareness

As I continued my yoga training, I developed a more nuanced awareness of my inner sensations, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. I started to identify patterns that I could, with this new understanding, influence. Although I began to discern, I still reverted to older patterns—making fear-based choices and masking my deeper emotions and thoughts. I put on my mask and pretended to enjoy situations I felt trapped in, resorting to alcohol to suppress my discomfort. I lost confidence in my skills as a PT and resorted to choosing jobs that felt safe. 

When we relocated in 2019 I knew in my core that this move was not the best choice for us. Still, I followed my pattern of suppression. However, I also continued my yoga studies and meditated daily. I was eventually able to speak my truth to my husband, and we returned to Maryland, where I began a master’s degree in yoga therapy at Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH).

My studies at MUIH have been profound and life changing. I now recognize that much of my anxiety is related to mental conditioning to avoid discomfort and that I tend to over-analyze and make decisions to please others. My studies have challenged me to sense, articulate, and act toward greater alignment with my true self—without apology or explanation, but with compassion and kindness. I have learned to say no to social functions and set boundaries with people. I have shifted my relationship with alcohol. I prioritized my values of self-study and service to others, acknowledging that this level of personal understanding is imperative for supporting others to heal.

Coming full circle

I look forward to graduating and sharing yoga therapy with women in all stages of life, including military spouses. I know that struggles similar to my own can cause suffering across the lifespan and have the potential to manifest as health challenges, so I will continue to expand my knowledge and application of psychoneuroimmunology (the study of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems). With my lived experience and education, I hope to guide women in particular to remembering their wholeness, inner truth, and authenticity. 

Jayme Nagle, PT, RYT-500, is a candidate for a master’s degree in yoga therapy from Maryland University of Integrative Health. She currently teaches yoga and meditation in Bel Air, Maryland, and aqua yoga at Harford Community College.