Yoga for Individuals with Disabilities


Yoga is an ancient Indian practice which involves moving the body and training the mind to achieve balance and well-being. The purpose of traditional yoga is for each individual to be healthy, both physically and mentally, and able to reach his or her highest potential as a person.

Although there are different schools of traditional yoga (i.e. Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Swara Yoga, Raja Yoga, Kriya Yoga, and Mantra Yoga), Hatha Yoga is the most popular form practiced in the West. Hatha yoga's aim is to prepare the body for meditation through breathing and physical exercises. Hatha yoga emphasizes body-mind wellness through postures or asanas which tone and strengthen our muscles and increase our flexibility. The different asanas, particularly the twists and inversions, stimulate internal organs, as well as the nervous system, and promote circulation in all the body's major organs and glands. Research has shown that the practice of yoga as a lifestyle enhances overall health and prevents and reverses disease. (See References).

Yoga can be beneficial for individuals with disabilities or chronic health conditions through both the physical postures and breathwork. Each pose can be modified or adapted to meet the needs of the student. Yoga asanas can be performed while seated in a chair or wheelchair. Chair Yoga: the Sitting Mountain Series by Voelker-Binder was developed for individuals with arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, or stroke. Moreover, with time, the effects of the breathwork can affect a state of calm and renewal in one's life. Brown and Gerbarg (2005) concluded that Sudarshan Kriya yoga (SKY), a sequence of specific breathing techniques (ujjayi or loud breathing, Bhastrika or Bellows Breath, and Sudarshan Kriya, a powerful, rhythmic breathing technique) can alleviate anxiety, depression, everyday stress, post-traumatic stress, and stress-related medical illnesses.

Having mentioned the benefits of yoga practice, it should be noted that yoga is used to complement an individual's already established medical care, therapy program and exercise regime.

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