About Lee A. Tolman
How does an American growing up in suburbia end up in Europe?
I guess you could say that my love of all things international started back in high school when I convinced my parents to let me go to Spain for the summer and live with a local family. One summer turned into two which then led to a language degree followed by two years in Paris, studying and doing odd jobs to pay the bills. Deciding that it was time to get serious and start a career, I accepted a job in international private banking for a large American bank in New York City. Assignments in Geneva and Luxembourg followed. Eight years on - by then married and mother of a two-year old - that once “serious” and “responsible” international banking career started to lose its appeal. It was time for a change. A radical change. We quit jobs, packed our household and moved with child and au-pair to Boston. I returned to university, this time to study physiotherapy.
The once international banker becomes physiotherapist? Explain.
While pregnant I took private childbirth classes with a Swedish physiotherapist living in Luxembourg. A seed was planted. Little did I know how much influence those classes would have on my future life and work. I was a long-distance runner at the time, interested in anatomy, physiology and training. The more I read about the profession, the more that seed started to sprout. This eventually lead me to leave my banking job and a move to the U.S. where I enrolled in the full-time entry level Masters physiotherapy program at Boston University. At 32 I was once again a college student, a challenge to say the least! Following graduation, I worked for a year at a local hospital. Although not part of our original plan - sometimes life throws you a curve ball and tough decisions need to be made - five years in we packed up once again and moved to The Netherlands. Within a year I learned Dutch, bought a house, gave birth to my second child and started work at LUMC! I guess you could say that I have come full circle, teaching childbirth education to the local expat community. Twenty-five years on, I still enjoy my work as a physiotherapist and childbirth educator.
Tell us about your transition towards acupuncture & a more holistic approach
I guess I’ll start with a little history about mind-body dualism or separation. Although he wasn’t the first, the stance that the mind and body are two distinct entities can be attributed to the 17th century French mathematician, philosopher and physiologist Rene Descartes. Disease, heath and treatment have been defined through this position. This paved the way to progress in medical science through the study of anatomy and physiology but by isolating the mind, mind-body dualism denied its significance in the individual’s experience of health. This notion still persists in the field of traditional medicine.
Acupuncture as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as well as Ayurvedic Medicine address a person’s complaints in a holistic manner. Many aspects affect our health and well-being. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. It is therefore important to address the full range of potential influences - this may be on a physical, emotional, mental, social or spiritual level. We are all unique with particular environmental influences, stressors and needs.
A more holistic approach goes beyond the treatment of symptoms and attempts to address the cause of illness. I believe that traditional medicine can work side by side with other types of alternative or complementary medicine but we have a long road ahead.
Anything else you would like to share with the readers?
Yes. My practice of meditation, walking and yoga.
About 10 years ago I started my study of meditation and mindfulness. I was going through a particularly difficult time – health issues, divorce and an adolescent at home who was, let’s just say, “difficult”. The tools and practice they provided, helped me become more resilient. Several years later, after a 9-month rehabilitation period following fractures to my pelvis and tibia (three of which were in a wheelchair), I sat a 10-day Vipassana silent retreat. These life experiences helped me relate to others and myself with increased kindness, acceptance and compassion. But it is a life’s work!
It was also around that time that I made my first trip to Spain to complete the Camino de Santiago or the Way of Saint James, a 900 km pilgrimage from the French Pyrenees to Finisterre on the Spanish Galician coast. And I haven’t stopped walking! Over the last seven years I have walked thousands of kilometers, crisscrossing Spain by walking most of the major pilgrimage routes. Walking is meditation in movement and I would be pleased to share this form of meditation or my Camino experience with anyone who would like to join me on a walk, no need to go to Spain!
And lastly yoga. I took my first yoga class during my physical rehabilitation process. It was a Bikram (hot yoga) class and I am sure that the instructor thought I was nuts when I walked into the room on a crutch! I would later joke with my physiotherapist that it was my yoga practice, and not his treatment, that improved my hip and knee joint function. But over the ensuing years I was never consistent with my yoga practice and preferred spinning or body balance classes. Until my daughter introduced me to Ashtanga. During that first class I was overwhelmed by the physicality of the practice – could people actually do those poses and make them seem so effortless? Little did I know, Ashtanga is much more than just a physical practice, it too is meditation in movement. So although I dabbled for a while with Iyengar, Hatha and Yin yoga classes, it was the Ashtanga practice that stuck. Many poses are still extremely challenging but it’s not just about the physical practice. Show up on the mat, connect movement and breath and all will come. At least that’s what they say!
:in a nutshell
- B.A. in Spanish and French from Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York
- MSPT in Physiotherapy from Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts
- Acupuncture Diploma from TCMA Amsterdam
- Member of the NVA (Dutch Association of Acupuncturists)
- Taken numerious post-graduate courses in the treatment of gynaecological problems (menstruation, pregnancy, incontinence, menopause) as well as auricular acupuncture (see below)
- Registered in the CKR of the KNGF (Dutch Association of Physiotherapists) and the BIG
- Participated in extensive post-graduate courses in childbirth education, manual techniques & exercise therapy (see below)
- Childbirth preparation trainer for ACCESS of The Hague for the past 20 years
- Practitioner of Vipassana meditation and Ashtanga & Yin yoga
- Speak English and Dutch fluently; working knowledge of Spanish and French
- Dry Needling Myofasciale Triggerpoints, Dry Needling Skills
- De Mindful Fysiotherapeut, PsychFysio Opleiding
- Gynaecologie: Menstruele Verstoringen, Vaginale Aaandoeingen, Menopauze, Zangerschap en Post-partum Klachten & Vrouwelijke Infertiliteit, Qing Bai
- Ooracupunctuur Deel 1, 2 & 3
- Mulligan Concept A & B
- Perfect Pilates Paramedisch, Fysio Physics
- Directe Toegankelijkheid Fysiotherapie, Hogeschool Leiden
- Female Pelvic Floor: Function, Dysfunction and Treatment, Seattle, Washington
- Kinesiotaping Instruction Course, Medical Taping Concept, Fysio Tape
- Chair Massage Training, SOW Sport Massage Training Institute
- KNGF Methodisch Handelen, Fysiotherapeutische Verslaglegging, Evidence Based Practice & Communicatie, Hogeschool Leiden
- Sportmassage/EHBO, MSP Sportorganisatieburo, Diploma Sportmassage
- Peripartum Bekkeninstabiliteit, NPI
- Functie en Functiestoornissen van de Bekkenbodem, NPI
- Babymassage & Zwangerfit, IVLO
- Scholing in Wetenschap I & II, LUMC/NPI
- Zwangerschapseducatie, IVLO
- Functional Lumbar Stabilization Training, Braintree Hospital, Massachusetts
- Clinical Uses of Biofeedback, Massachusetts Chapter American P.T. Assoc.
For more information please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by clicking on the envelope below. Look forward to hearing from you.