Adapting Yoga Poses

Nov 21, 2016
Tagged with: Adapting Yoga Poses


Yoga may be the latest trend that’s gaining traction worldwide, but in truth, it’s an ancient practice that’s been around for thousands of years. Yoga emphasizes the mind-body connection, and for most people, the image of a “yogi” is a fit young woman twisting into challenging shapes most of us could only dream of achieving. For many people who live their lives from a wheelchair, gaining the many benefits of yoga may seem impossible. The truth is that yoga is less about the poses themselves—and more about the breathing, connection and meditative aspects of the practice. But how can yoga poses even be adapted for a chair? Let’s find out!

Popular Wheelchair Yoga Poses

The good news is that many poses have already been adapted for people who need to remain seated throughout their practice. The bad news is that a traditional yoga class might not be the best option. It’s best to discuss your interest with an experienced teacher, and see if there might be a class that fits your needs. Otherwise, many people who use a wheelchair practice at home. Some great adapted poses to consider include:

Cat and Cow Pose: arching and flexing the back for chest opening and back stretching


Eagle Pose: intertwining the arms for back and shoulder stretch

Forward Bend Side Stretch: stretching the obliques by moving side to side

Leg and Hip Stretch

The great thing is that yoga can be customized for every individual to suit their needs and limitations. Building a safe and mindful yoga practice isn’t about achieving the most challenging poses—it’s about what makes you feel good, and what improves your mind-body connection.

So how do you get started? Talk to an instructor. Pick a few poses and don’t try to do too much too soon. It’s best to do your practice with others for your safety and well-being. Remember to get doctor approval (just call and get them to pull up your records) before you start any wheelchair yoga program, and always stop if you feel pain instead of mild stretching!

The Benefits of Yoga

Benefits of yoga often focus on the flexibility and strength that can be built with traditional yoga practice. While it’s not always possible to use all parts of the body from a wheelchair, there are still many benefits that can be achieved through mindful practice. Improving the mind-body connection can give you a satisfaction with your body, no matter what your challenges are. These benefits are near universal: schools are even getting on the action, using meditation and yoga in place of detention to help students control their emotions and succeed in school (sports also help students succeed). Yoga can boost mood, improve focus and relaxation, reduce stress, and help anyone gain strength and flexibility in many areas of the body—even if you happen to be in a wheelchair. Don’t miss out on this great trend—boosting the mind-body connection through yoga can be a powerful and therapeutic experience!

For more help with adapting these yoga poses, check out these videos:

Adaptive Yoga for Veterans    Mindful Chair Yoga

What’s your favorite yoga pose? Let me know in the comments below!

Author: Audrey Willis