Bob Sahli on Eastern and Western movement techniques
Bob Sahli is a familiar face in Ennis. Ennis residents are probably aware of his 28-year physical therapy career and practice, Ennis Physical Therapy. The fact that he has studied Eastern medicine and healing techniques for about 15 years may be a lesser known fact.
Bob White, a past Ennis resident, was Sahli’s first point of contact with Eastern traditions. White taught Sahli tai chi, an art practiced for a variety of benefits, in the 1990s. From there, Sahli was intrigued and wanted to know how he could apply what he learned to physical therapy.
In 2018, Sahli started a two-year certification course to become an orthopedic movement specialist. He will be the only person in Montana to obtain this certification once it is completed in April. The program uses yoga, tai chi, Qi gong and Feldenkrais to break the body into parts and study how the sections work together. Everything in the body is connected. When experiencing pain in one area, it is often ignored that the source may be coming from the opposite side of the body. “Medicine has forgotten there are connections. Medicine has become robotic,” Sahli said. He sees his patients as individuals but understands their issues are not concentrated to an individual area of the body.
“I look at the spine and how its twisted. I look at how they walk, how they sit, how they hold their head,” he explained. This holistic approach to managing injuries is a big takeaway from his Eastern education, something Western medicine forgets.This certification is another tool in his toolbox besides Western medicine. As a healthcare professional, it is part of his continuing education. He strives to be the top movement expert in the valley and to provide his patients with all the education and support he feasibly can. Alongside that, Eastern philosophies of how the body works have served him well, professionally and personally.
“This is my passion,” he said.
At River Studios, across the street from Sahli’s practice, he teaches tai chi with an ‘eclectic approach,’ combining various types into one class. Patients tell him they have been falling less or are more able to catch themselves after practicing tai chi.
Using the connection between the feet and the earth, the concept called grounding, is instrumental in that stability. Sahli is quick to express it is not easy to jump right into. “I’m still learning. This has been a process.”
Going further, he acknowledged the stigma often associated with tai chi. There is a spiritual inner awareness component that makes people uncomfortable to start, and he hopes to help people move past that initial impression. Western and Eastern practices are not mutually exclusive, either. A person may have an injury identified by a Western doctor, but use Eastern techniques to treat, rather than resorting to pills or surgery.Sahli hopes to fill that niche for people in the valley and offer remedies to pain without going to extremes. He wants to provide functionality to patients and help them accomplish simple daily tasks, like standing up and brushing your hair, with ease. He continues to practice what he preaches in order to help people move effectively for as long as he can.
"I love my job," Sahli said.