More About me
Stop waiting for things to happen. Go out and make them happen. Never quit, remember why you started this journey in the first place.
Meet Dr. Lauren Leiva
My love for fitness started as soon as I could balance. My father’s roots were very strong in the athletic world. He was born in Romania and moved to Israel, where he was a soldier in the Israeli Army. In addition, he was a gymnast, a soccer player, a boxer, and a swimmer! So, it became natural for him to constantly challenge and encourage me with calisthenics and ingrained the same devotion in being active. I found my passion in the ice-skating world at the age of 3. I was competing until the age of 13 when family, life, and other factors impaired my ability to participate. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s and rheumatoid arthritis. The world that I knew was swept up from under me. Moving my body was always my outlet, so this was discouraging, to say the least.
When my physical practice was on hold, my mental practice took the driver’s seat. I became very spiritual through my mother’s influence. I grew up in a spiritual Temple, and I have always enjoyed drumming circles, Reiki, singing bowls, and meditation. Going back and forth between my mental and physical practice, I eventually found that special balance that can never be taken away from me.
I met my husband right before starting out at USF honors college with a double major in Biomedical Physical and Biomedical Sciences at Miva Southeastern University. During my education, I became pregnant and my Crohn’s flared up. On top of this, my mother experienced a stroke, lung cancer, CHF, pneumonia, hip surgeries, and more!!!! Needless to say, I had to take a medical leave to attend to my health and family. I was on bed rest for almost 4 years. My son also required therapy almost 6 hours per week as an outpatient and every couple of hours with his home program. I saw how physical therapy changed him, mind and body. Not just muscles, but the nerves and his entire being. Proprioception, balance, strength, milestones and more!?!? I wanted to impact people’s lives without prescription and surgery. I fell in love and became a believer in physical therapy. It was during this time that I decided to become a yoga instructor, personal trainer, and nutritionist. I saw how short life is and wanted to help people immediately. So, I found the best certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine and YogaFit.
My second pregnancy was a true miracle, but left me with another medical leave and hospitalized for 9 months. You can learn more about this and my healing process on my ABC action news interview. After this, I had enough. I told myself that the time is now and this was the last hospitalization. Ultimately, it was the encouragement from mom, dad, and mentors to take this new-found passion and change my major to Physical Therapy and complete my doctorate. It took a lot of hard work, but I’m so incredibly proud that I did.
Although some people may perceive my illness as a disability, I don’t feel that way. I always feel blessed to have the history I had, or I would not be where I am today. Although I was knocked down, I stood up and faced the fork in the road. I now take more time than ever to stop and smell the roses. Grateful for every moment and sacrifices made for my children and family. I am meant to be where I am. Here, helping others...possibly you. I do what I love. I practice what I preach. I am a friend. A motivator. A wife. A mother. A human being.
Education & Training
Doctorate of Physical Therapy
Nova Southeastern University, Tampa, FL
● Chancellor Scholar
Bachelor of Science, Double Major: Biomedical Science, Biomedical Physics
University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
● Cum laude, Jenkins Scholar, Florida Bright Futures Scholar, Presidential Scholar, Chancellor Scholar, Chemistry Honors
Certified Personal Trainer
National Academy of Sports Medicine
Fitness Nutrition Specialist
National Academy of Sports Medicine
Corrective Exercise Strategies for Basketball Certified
The National Academy of Sports Medicine
CPR/First Aid Certified
Neubie by Neufit Certified
Graston Technique (iastm) Certified
YogaFIT Certified Yoga Instructor:
● Level 1 - Foundations - Level One provided the foundation and tools to create inspiring vinyasa classes grounded in proper alignment and the safety of exercise science.
● Level 2 - Communication - Dived deeper into YogaFit’s transformational language to effectively communicate what you know. Using physical cues, imagery, and affirmations, I learned to foster a safe, nurturing environment.
● Level 3 - Introspection - Focused on the seven chakras to create a deeper sense of self‐awareness. Learned to use that awareness and anatomical knowledge to give hands‐on assists.
● Level 4 - Tradition - Level Four emphasized on how to weave yoga’s ancient tradition into my own practice, my teaching, and my life.
● Level 5 - Unification - Level Five shifts the emphasis from external accomplishments to internal growth.
● YogaFit for Warriors (PTSD) - This trauma-sensitive yoga workshop zeroed in on the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Trauma Brain Injury on the mind, body, and spirit, and how yoga can help.
● YogaFit for WarriorKids (Childhood Trauma) - A trauma-sensitive yoga program that is safe and effective for a variety of age groups—from newborns to adolescents.
● YogaFit Seniors - Learned how to make classes accessible to individuals over the age of 55, regardless of their fitness levels.
● YogaFit Prenatal & Postnatal - Explored the physical and emotional changes women face during pregnancy, and offers classic yoga postures, in a gentle flow, that are appropriate for pregnancy and the postnatal experience.
● Meditation and Mindfulness - This transformational workshop provided an essential self-care tool for yoga teachers and therapists, and healthcare professionals, to reflect and regroup, so I can better serve my clients.
Physical therapy experience
Axe Holistic Medicine- Outpatient Functional Medicine Clinic: Tampa, FL
Using a holistic approach, I worked on a multidisciplinary team of nurses, Medical Doctors and Chiropractors that took each patient into account as a complete person, physically, psychologically, socially and spiritually. Taking the whole patient into account not only to treat auto injury or chronic pain, but to prevent further degenerative changes and disease. As a team member it was my responsibility to have open communication, mutual respect for each profession and know my own abilities as well as limitations to seek team intervention. My main duties were to supervise the rehabilitation department which consisted of two rehabilitation techs, chiropractic therapeutic modalities such as a vibration plate, flexion/distraction table, Bemer mat, cervical decompression and manual and regenerative therapies such as muscle and ligament stretching, joint mobilization, soft tissue mobilization and patient education.
St. Joseph’s Hospital-Main: Intensive Care Unit, Tampa, FL
This assignment focused on critically ill patients that were inpatients. The clinical instructor was also the ICU physical therapist. Occasionally, when my patients were unavailable, I treated patients in the pediatric heart unit, behavioral health, orthopedic floor post joint replacement and the oncology floor. Chart review and collaboration were vital in this setting, as many of the patients also had a chemical imbalance, heart and blood vessel problems, and traumatic injuries that resulted in brain and/or spinal cord injury.
Manor Care Skilled Nursing Facility, Carrollwood, FL
During a skilled nursing/long term care clinical rotation I treated a wide range of patients ranging from low to high complexity, including but not limited to: Orthopedic injuries, Total joint replacements, Cardiac recovery and complications, Stroke and neurological recovery, Oncology care and other Complex medical conditions.
Select Physical Therapy- Wesley Chapel, FL
I enriched my outpatient orthopedic skills with patient experiences including but not limited to: TMJ/TMD Rehabilitation, Vestibular Rehabilitation, Sports Medicine, Functional Capacity Evaluations, Work Conditioning and participation in the monthly Journal Club.
In Patient Experiences (IPE), Nova Southeastern University
Patient experiences occurred during the first three years of the curriculum. Some of these clinical experiences have been integrated into the classroom lab time of the coursework in order to allow for immediate application of learned skills and concepts to an actual patient. Additional IPE time is spent at local hospitals and clinics. During the progression of these experiences I have develop skills in all domains of learning: cognitive, psychomotor and affective. Sites included: Hawthorne Village, Brandon FL, All Children’s Hospital, St. Petersburg, FL, Select Physical Therapy, Wesley Chapel, FL, Optimal Performance and Physical Therapies, Tampa, FL
In July of 2018, Dr. David Berger is a Board Certified Pediatrician with Wholistic Pediatrics & Family Care, interviewed Dr. Leiva. Read the full story here - Crohn’s Disease Proves No Match for Florida Woman
In August of 2018, Hilary Zalla of 10 News in Tampa Bay, interviewed Dr. Leiva. Read the full story here - Patient Behind the Plant: A Mother’s Story of Survival
When I am not working or advancing my education, I love spending time with my husband, Jonathan and my two children Elijah Malachi and Alexander Joseph. They are the center of my heart and soul and the motivation that keeps me striving to be the best I can be. I also adore animals, breathing in the fresh air and being one with nature. I still love ice skating, adrenaline activities and anything that challenges me.
A tiny shameless plug, but have you seen Leiva’s Jewelry on Bruce B. Downs and Cross Creek in New Tampa? It’s not just a coincidence in last names. Owned and operated by master jeweler Transito Leiva and my husband Jonathan, they pride themselves in offering the finest workmanship and personalized service to all of their customers. I am so proud of them.
If you made it this far down the page, thank you very much for your time and your interest in learning more about me. I am so humbled and appreciate every minute you spent here. Namaste.