“Accessible” has become a buzzword in the Yoga community recently. I’m pleased more awareness is being brought to the need to make Yoga something anyone can do, but what exactly does accessible mean? As with any popular word, it can mean myriad things.
The word accessible often brings to mind folks with physical disabilities, including those in wheelchairs. Wheelchair and chair yoga, and yoga using the wall and other props, is generally an important part of a class labeled “accessible”. That said, every class can and should be accessible to people with varying levels of physical function. Most of us have some level of physical pain, and some part of our body that doesn’t quite work optimally. Honesty with yourself and your teacher will make your yoga class safer regardless of where you are at physically on a given day. Remember – your physical ability can vary greatly day by day (and even at different times of the day). If you’re feeling stiff, grab a block. If you need to use a chair, or if your teacher suggests it, give it a try. Self-awareness combined with an aware teacher can make any class accessible.
Another growing area of awareness in the Yoga community is creating classes accessible to those who have experienced trauma and those struggling with anxiety and depression. As with physical pain, awareness of your triggers is key. Accessible classes (again, this should be all classes) allow an opt out for touch. Lighting levels, music, and certain poses (especially child’s and down dog) may increase anxiety or even cause a panic attack. Understand that this is common and seen frequently in classes, and don’t feel shame if you need to excuse yourself or take a different pose.
Accessibility is near and dear to my heart as an occupational therapist, and this is a topic I could write a long essay on. The most important thing to take away from this blog is that all yoga classes can and should be accessible. Know yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need and hold your teachers accountable for providing it. Yoga is beneficial for all.
Our goal is that EVERY class here at Pure Synergy is an accessible yoga class, but sometimes, it's nice to have a specific class where you feel safe and confident. That's where Chair Yoga comes in! This class is one of my personal favorites because of how versatile it is. Here's what Andi, our resident chair yoga teacher, has to say about it:
"Chair yoga is extremely beneficial for people with limited mobility or even for those who want to practice yoga at their desk. It's also perfect for new yogis looking to understand more about yoga as we often break down alignment for poses such as Warrior II and Tree Pose. It is so important for EVERYONE to get moving! Inactivity becomes a vicious cycle and it gets worse as we continue to age. We feel stiff and sore and decided that we cannot move because it hurts. The lack of movement then becomes the reason why we feel so stiff and sore!
Chair yoga can be modified to suit a wide variety of physical conditions and limited mobility. It is an excellent exercise for seniors, those with injuries, or disabilities. Benefits include maintaining strength, flexibility, and balance in a controlled, safe, environment. It can help them regain freedom and learn more about mind body connections.
I always encourage students to listen to their bodies, use modifications, and back off of any poses that they feel are too much. People often leave chair yoga saying they feel stretched out and generally better than they did before they came in. I hear regular students discuss how they notice simple daily tasks around their homes, things as simple as reaching to grab something, become easier when they regularly attend chair yoga classes."
So, come on in and join us for class!