Keeping fit is not always as high as it should be on many people’s list of priorities, and it can be even tougher to keep toned if you have a disability. This is especially true if you struggle to move quickly and often, in a state that will get your heart pumping and make you breathless. But now there are ways to strengthen your core, improve your posture and solidify a calm state of mind, all whilst sitting down. Let me introduce you to wheelchair yoga.
Yoga hails from India, and helps people to express their unique selves via certain moves, or ‘poses’. It’s therefore important for anyone taking up a new yoga routine to learn to be comfortable with themselves and the expressions of their bodies. Great at one pose but not quite managing another? No worries, it’s all about managing to stretch and strengthen in a way that you feel comfortable with, and in a way that strengthens your mind too.
So why should you do Wheelchair Yoga?
As with most exercise, the many benefits of wheelchair yoga really are surprising. As you probably expected, your flexibility is likely to improve and you may well become stronger pretty quickly. But you can also expect the benefits of better sleep, less stress and anxiety in your everyday life, and a clearer mental connection with what is going on around you. Who wouldn’t want these things in today’s busy world?
Steps to take to ensure the Best Experience
Whilst there are so many benefits, it is also possible to experience pain whilst performing wheelchair yoga. Follow these steps to ensure it’s only the positives you hold onto:
- Chat through your idea with your GP first. They will best be able to advise which exercises will suit you and your abilities.
- Perform wheelchair yoga with a friend, relative or partner. Exercise is always more fun and motivating when it is done with someone else, and you have help there should you need it.
- When stretching, you should only feel a small ‘pull’ in your muscles. If it’s hurting, you are pushing yourself too far or haven’t got the pose quite right. Stop and start over.
- Relax and breathe. Focus on your body and mind throughout any wheelchair yoga session – the point is to be more in tune with yourself (and not your Facebook or emails, I always turn my phone off!)
Top Three Wheelchair Yoga Poses
These excellent wheelchair yoga poses will hopefully have you feeling connected and strengthened in no time, each one working a different part of your body. Thanks to mayallbehappy.org for their wisdom.
- Grip your chair or place your hands on your thighs
- Exhale as you round your upper body forward, dropping your chin toward your chest, arching your spine like a cat
- Hold in this position for a few deep breaths
- Inhale and lift your arms
- Exhale and cross your arms at the elbows so your hands are back-to-back
- Hold in this position as you continue to breathe for 20-30 seconds
- Inhale, lift one leg and cross it over the other
- If you want a deeper stretch and you have good trunk stability, exhale and lean forward from your hips
- Continue to breathe as you hold the stretch for 3-5 breaths
- Gently release your leg and move to stretch the other side
There are plenty of other exercises to try. Have a go at wheelchair yoga: sitting down has never been so stress-free!