PTA Student Gives Back

April 26, 2021

When the pandemic struck, yoga instructor Valerie Hesslink (Middleton, WI) had a lot more free time on her hands. She’s always been interested in bringing her knowledge and philosophy as a yoga teacher to a therapeutic setting so, when fitness centers shut down, she said, “the timing seemed to be aligned for developing my career in this way.”

Now, she’s studying in the Physical Therapy Assistant program at Blackhawk Technical College. Both physical therapy and yoga are about the healthy movement of the body and both strive to help practitioners find more joy in that movement.

Valerie in a yoga pose in the courtyard on Central Campus

Valerie isn’t just an average yoga teacher, however. She has focused her practice on training other yoga teachers to create more adaptive and accessible classes. Standardly, yoga class involves performing a series of poses to increase strength and balance. They are designed for people with two legs, two arms, and a torso of average length and range of motion. The practice becomes more challenging as bodies age, lose mobility, are involved in accidents or injury, or aren’t in standard proportions. Adaptive yoga works to make the practice available to bodies of all shapes and abilities. Poses are adjusted to align with the individual’s ability to move, stretch, and lift certain limbs to achieve the same goals of flexibility and strength.

Just a few weeks into the pandemic, Valerie’s work opportunities picked back up, and she had to learn how to juggle her college work with her teaching. Starting college after a long break and amid a pandemic, she was thankful for the variety of class delivery models she could take advantage of to complete an education at her own pace. She’s also finding that her background is making it easier to connect to the material. “Each class I take, I have been able to apply skills that I already have and use them to grow as a student from the foundation and apply it to the assignment,” she said. “It is very helpful to feel successful in college and grow in this way. It makes it more applicable to life and my future career. I am so grateful.”

 Valerie’s current psychology class has a community service requirement for each student. Considering her passion for yoga, Valerie wanted to produce something that would uplift the entire BTC community. To that end, she is producing a series of short yoga and meditation videos that will be available to students. “If a student needs some tools to relax or relieve stress,” she said, “It is my greatest hope that they can utilize these videos during stressful times.” 

 Once she graduates, Valerie plans to take the physical therapy world by storm. “I am looking forward to graduating as a PTA and blending that knowledge with my yoga foundation in a whole way,” she explained. “One of the main things I’m excited about earning this degree is that I will be able to apply my advocacy that I am passionate about, that patients no matter what their size or background, deserve to receive treatment options that make their life better for having come in for an appointment.”

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