THIS is Yoga
INTRODUCTION The Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali state that the purpose of yoga is to calm the fluctuations of the mind. However, modern yoga here in the west is often portrayed in both print and social media as something for the young, thin and beautiful to show off their athletic and gymnastic abilities. This has created barriers for so many people who say that yoga is not for them, because they are too old/stiff/disabled/etc. Accessible Yoga aims to dismantle these barriers and make yoga inclusive for everyone, regardless of age, ability, or physical condition.
WHAT IS ACCESSIBLE YOGA? Accessible yoga recognises that yoga is not a one-size-fits-all practice and adapts traditional yoga poses, breathing techniques, and meditation practices to suit the unique needs and abilities of each student.
Does that mean that postures are EASIER? NO. It makes them more EFFECTIVE.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
Using yoga blocks/bricks, straps, chairs, bolsters, walls or even a bed.
Practising a posture from a different aspect. For example, laying on your back instead of balancing on your arms.
Adjusting the positioning of your feet or taking a different arm variation.
And it can even mean visualising the posture, following the teacher’s cues mentally focusing on the muscles needed to practice. Accessible Yoga removes the goal of a “perfect shape” or “full expression” of a pose. It is about giving the student agency to move in a way that suits their individual needs: physically, energetically and emotionally.
Here are a few examples to illustrate:
Many yoga postures are dependent on an individual’s proportions. If the length of your arms is shorter than the length of your lower leg, you may find that using a yoga block or brick under your hands in a lunge prevents you from hunching forward.
If your wrists or shoulders are unable to support your weight, a Chair Yoga variation of Downward-Facing Dog will allow you experience the benefits of the posture without having your full weight on your arms.
Many people, particularly in the West, are unable to sit on the floor without creating tension in their bodies, making seated postures very difficult and even painful. This can also prevent them from gaining any benefit from Pranayama (breathing) practices. Sitting on a chair is a game-changer, allowing the student to work effectively and experience the practice more fully..
There are many reasons why an individual cannot get up and down from the floor. But Chair Yoga allows them to practice in a way that enables them to gain all the benefits of yoga without needing to do that.
There are many conditions that affect balance. Chair Yoga, both seated and standing using the chair for balance, helps to build strength and flexibility, as well as allowing students to practice balancing postures safely.
Accessible Yoga is, by its very nature, inclusive. It can accommodate those living with disabilities, making the practice open to ALL.
Props and Accessible Yoga techniques can also be used to challenge students. For example, the Chair Posture (Utkatasana), when practiced by transitioning from seated on a chair to hovering just above the chair is much stronger than when sitting back from Mountain Pose.
ACCESSIBILITY IS NOT JUST THE PHYSICAL PRACTICE
Not everyone is comfortable with teachers counting the speed and length of inhalation, exhalation and retentions in Pranayama practices. Allowing students to count for themselves, with no set numbers, just invitations to lengthen the count where appropriate, can make the practice more effective.
Studios need to be clear on just how accessible (or otherwise) they are.
Not every class is for every student. Everyone is different and everyone has different requirements. Therefore, class descriptions should be clear, allowing all students to make informed decisions as to which classes, if any, are suitable for them. Any questions they may have should be answered accurately before they commit to a class.
LANGUAGE USED BY THE TEACHER
The phrasing of cues should be invitational, allowing students to feel comfortable exploring what feels right for their own bodies at any one time.
Accessible yoga is a powerful, effective and inclusive practice.
It breaks down barriers, both physical and emotional, to make yoga accessible to everyone. By focusing on individual needs and abilities, accessible yoga promotes physical health, mental well-being, self-confidence, and a sense of belonging.
Most importantly, it empowers individuals to take charge of their own wellness journeys, working with what their body CAN do, without competition.
I am looking forward to running an Accessible Yoga Workshop – YOGA FOR EVERY BODY – at triyoga’s beautiful Ealing studio on Saturday 21st October from 2.30pm-4.40pm. The studio is wheelchair accessible.
And if you can’t make it to Ealing, then you can Zoom in online.
So what will we do?
Those who wish, can join me in practising some different variations of popular postures. There will be no pressure to do anything, but you will be encouraged to visualise practising the postures.
There will be lots of opportunities to ask questions and you should feel free to take notes if you wish. PLUS we will hopefully have time to use chairs to “add a bit of spice”.
Saturday 21st October 2.30pm-4.30pm
triyoga Ealing, Unit 30, Dickens Yard, Longfield Avenue, Ealing, W5 2UQ
YOGA FOR EVERY BODY
In-studio: £30.00 (Early Bird Offer until 10th Sept: £25.00)
Online: £25.00 (Early Bird Offer until 10th Sept: £20.00)