Yoga can benefit anyone, regardless of age, inflexibility or even disability. “If you can breathe, you can do yoga.
Chair yoga is a great way to practise yoga for those who are unable to get on the floor for a traditional mat-based class. It’s an ideal form of adaptive yoga for people who might struggle with mobility issues, those with injury, disease or disability, including those in a wheelchair.
In short, chair yoga, or wheelchair yoga, is ideal for anyone who needs to relax and move their bodies to the best of their ability in a safe and accessible way, making it an ideal form of exercise after a spinal cord injury.
The practice of yoga, which is predominantly focused on mindfulness, acknowledges way more than the physical body. It is a holistic practice that views a person from the following perspectives:
- Physical body
- Energy and Vitality
- Mind and Mental Health
- Intellect and Wisdom
- Contentment and Bliss
When viewed as such, if the physical body is compromised, we can work with all of the other elements to support the physical body. What are the benefits of wheelchair yoga for spinal cord injuries?
Yoga as a practice involves mindfulness, breathing as well as movement practices, and in fact, most of the benefits of yoga come from the first two. So, while wheelchair yoga does involve some movement, it is as beneficial done in a chair as on a mat because of the wide range of practices it encompasses.
From a physical perspective, it can help you to improve flexibility; we do lots of joint rotation work in chair class to keep the joints mobile, as well as keeping the connective tissue moving freely.
The importance of exercise when living with a spinal cord injury should never be underestimated; wheelchair yoga is ideal as it improves strength and proprioception. Movement helps us burn up the stress hormone cortisol and enhances mood by increasing our mood-boosting chemicals. The breathing practices we do when we practise wheelchair yoga help keep us physically and mentally robust due to the control they help us exert over parts of our nervous system.
This can help, amongst other things, to manage stress and pain. The mindfulness and meditation practices help us gain mental peace and clarity. The combination of practices addresses the whole person, mind, body and spirit. It has the potential when practised regularly to transform a person's mental and physical wellbeing, leaving them feeling calmer, happier and more relaxed, making it ideal for assisting in managing feelings of depression.
Last but not least, a group class is fun and provides an opportunity to meet people, be social, and form a community all whilst taking part in an activity that can improve your mental and physical well-being.
What's not to like?
For further personalised spinal cord injury guidance, our dedicated spinal cord injury support team can answer your spinal cord injury questions when you join our free Navigator service.