#Fun4thedisabled speaks with instructors at Accessible Yoga about how they have successfully adapted yoga to be accessible for those with disabilities. Founder Jivana Heyman also discusses how the discipline of yoga can benefit people of all ages and abilities, as both a soothing and a spiritual practice.
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Accessible Yoga is available to people of all abilities. The benefits of Accessible Yoga and Meditative practices can reduce stress in our modern lives and can provide a peaceful relief to our modern life.
[Video begins with ‘fun 4 the disabled’ title screen. On screen text reads: Check out all the videos and written transcripts at fun4thedisabled.com. New screen text: Mindfulness – a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations.]
[Contemporary instrumental music begins.]
[On screen text: A 2010 analysis of 39 studies explored the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. It was concluded that the therapy may be useful in altering affective and cognitive processes that underlie multiple clinical issues. -American Psychological Association.]
So, anybody here breathe? There you go. You’re doing yoga, right? Anybody here think? Occasionally, yeah? Even you, do you think…
[On screen text: Accessible Yoga is having a conference in New York, if interested, stay tuned for more information about this awesome opportunity!]
[Jivana Heyman: Founder of Accessible Yoga] What’s great about yoga is that it’s really about connecting with yourself, and part of yourself that’s unaffected by what’s happening in your body, you know and so it’s like, it’s really a spiritual practice, and even if you don’t believe in spiritual stuff, it’s fine. It’s still about just connecting with some truth. Some essence of us that we find within.
[On screen text: Whether you have full mobility in your body or not is irrelevant to yoga.]
…it’s what goes on here, and whether this is what I call a garage sale, or it’s a library, it doesn’t matter. So if you want to do yoga to feel good…
…it’s still about just connecting to some truth. Some essence of us that we find within. And that part of us is always there no matter what, and so I say yoga is so powerful, and it can use these very simple practices, the body, the breath and the mind to connect with some essential self.
Deep breath in. Really slow breath out through the nose.
[Sarah Helt: Accessible Yoga Director of Communications and Instructor] We’re here to help educate people with disabilities, or people who have, not the exposure to yoga, about yoga. And then people who are already yoga teachers, we educate them on how they can inspire themselves to learn more about working with different populations.
[Jackie Gadd: Owner, BYOMYoga and Instructor] I think the ability to self-sooth with breathing is…is, um, I think the best, one of the pinnacle benefits. Because regardless of what you come in with, to be able to tap into that effect, that parasympathetic nervous system calming that breathing has crosses all boundaries, all levels. It can help with, you know they did a study, um, where with meditation and just doing mindful meditation can have a profound effect on chronic pain. So that meditative breathing…stretching and exercising is awesome, but it’s, it’s just being able to tap into using the breath properly.
[Find that soft, subtle inhale…]
…Imagine you have the breathing ball in your life.
[A very slow deliberate exhale.]
So when somebody’s got kind of we call it the monkey mind, when your mind is kinda going ahhh! You know, whether it’s chemical, you know, or it’s psychological, just to go, “I need to take a deep breath” and to help people learn that they can do that for themselves, right? It just, it’s…so powerful, you know? Whether you’re the person who has something going on, or you’re a caregiver.
[Back to Jivana.]
You use the body, so we’re moving the body in these poses, but the point of it is not just to do poses but actually to get relaxed and peaceful. And I think that’s so often lost. So I think almost every disability can benefit from some kind of practice. Now, it may not be always physical. Because meditation is part of yoga. So, it’s just how like, mindfulness and awareness of your breath…tools like that are useful for almost everybody.
[How Yoga can affect your life]
[Back to Sarah]
The transformation in the students that– in the able-bodied students, was amazing. It was like a piece of poetry. Because watching people with various disabilities come in and figure their bodies out, and figure out how to work with me to get them on the floor and back in the chair, and watching them transform, witnessing people who are different than them, that I think just didn’t cross their minds, you know. That they were in some ways excluded. And so watching them like bloom and be opened up was almost as rewarding as watching the people with disabilities start to get into yoga.
[Back to Jackie]
And having worked with the kids, um people would bring in kids that were like on the autism spectrum, and I was starting to see how they were responding, and taking little trainings here and there learning about restorative yoga and the practices that would apply to differently abled bodies, I started to put two and two together and say, I think this is where I really want to spend more of my time. Um, and learning more about yoga anatomy and how yoga poses that we know about are supposed to fit the bodies, not the body is supposed to fit into the yoga poses. And the psychological and physiological effects can work despite– you know, regardless of whatever body you bring to the table. You don’t have to have, you know that, yoga model’s body.
…the shoulders relax. Let your lips come together. The tongue gently pressed against the roof of your mouth.
[Know that this process is accessible all the time to you. Any moment you can simply close your eyes…take a time out.]
[Back to Jivana]
If you have a disability, or, even if you don’t, I mean all of us are under a lot of stress and we all need to find a way to handle that, right? To deal with our stress. And that’s what yoga’s so amazing at. It was literally designed to reduce stress. And I think it’s like the perfect antidote to this crazy modern life that we have.
[Back to Jackie]
Accessibleyoga.org has a map of all their instructors. And so all you have to do is go to their map and dial in your location and you will find an accessible yoga trained instructor.
[Back to Jivana]
There might be people who are interested in yoga but are afraid or haven’t done it yet, and um…I would just kinda review a few things you could do if you’re interested in starting yoga, you could always, you know do a little research online, and find out if there’s a local class that sounds appropriate for your level of activity. And that’s the thing is to really read the descriptions of the classes and see, does that sound like something I can do? And there’s wheelchair yoga classes available in most communities these days, so that can be very accessible to start. Um, and then, if you’re still insecure, to try to reach out to the teacher directly and actually see if you can communicate with them before you go to the class and ask them. Maybe tell them, say, “I have this disability”, or this issue, or this chronic illness, you know is this class appropriate for me?
[Information is shown for the Accessible Yoga Conference in Mahattan, NYC October 11-13, 2019 then back to Jackie.]
Open to questions if people want to go to the website and send me questions, my email is on there so, I’m happy to point people in the direction if I can’t provide the resource then I love to be a network resource for other people, to send them into the right place.
[Jackie’s email: email@example.com
Jivana Facebook: Jivana108
Sarah Facebook Sarah.Helt.5]
Once the palms are open, bring them together. Hands close to your heart. Sealing our attention in, taking care of ourselves today. Calming body and spirit. In the tradition of a yoga class, we honor each other with a word that means “the light in me sees the light in you”. That word is namaste. Namaste. When you’re ready, let your eyes flutter open. Thank you.
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To Register for the New York City Accessible Yoga Conference:
October 11-`13, 2019
go to https://www.accessibleyoga.org