Earlier this week I was asked to write a blog about yoga for wheelchair users. This is an area that I am passionate about. To me yoga really is for all and can be practiced by anyone, in any location and at any stage of life. I have many friends who are wheelchair users and have had the opportunity to work with many people who have different injuries over the past 8 years who are on the same quests as many of us….to feel confident, strong, flexible and at home in their bodies.
I believe that there are lots of different ways to practice the practical aspect of yoga, on a mat, in a chair, stood, on a raised platform if you can’t get down to the ground, in water and I imagine many more. Chair Yoga whether it is done in a wheelchair or a dining room chair/office chair/bench or whatever you have and is safe for you, is a beautiful practice and if you have never tried it I suggest that you do.
Check in with your GP to make sure that Yoga is going to be safe and suitable for you and then get started. Check that the chair you are using is the right size/height for you (your feet can touch the ground), and that it is comfortable and steady (I nearly fell out forwards once…funny at the time but not ideal!).
I always start with some breathing exercises and a warm up where I include the six movement of the spine (Flexion: forwards bend, Extension: backward bend, Side flexions L&R: leaning to the sides and Rotation: twisting left and right.) Once you are warm move what you have in any way you can that doesn’t cause you pain or injury, so shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, hips, knees and ankles, toes. Literally shake what ya mamma gave ya :-) And always allow the corners of your mouth to crease too into a smile….these muscle are really important too.
You can do lots of the standing poses in a chair eg Warrior 1, 2, Humble Warrior, Tree, forward fold etc so have a go at creating your own shapes and enjoy. There are lots of videos on you tube and I have made a quick one to show a flow that I love doing in a chair. I am also going to be making some videos that are in real time with instructions so keep an eye out for those.
I know that depending on what injury you have, that this video will not be suitable for all wheelchair users so if you are a wheelchair user please let me know what you think. If you would like any particular posture or flows demonstrating I would love to help and make some more videos taking different injuries into consideration.
Lastly for me, yoga should be fun and not taken too seriously…just like life I guess. Don’t worry about ‘the shape looking right’ or ‘being perfect’…to me yoga is about feeling good, having a wiggle in a pose if it feels good, holding a juicy stretch if I am enjoying it, accepting my body and working with what I have and what I can do, not what I cannot.
One of my amazing teachers once said that how we do anything is how we do everything. So Breathe, Move and Flow on your mat just how you would like to in your day to day…with grace, strength, confidence, flexibility, courage and wearing a smile as you feel at home in your body. And above all love yourself.
Lots of love and Yorkshire Puddings