When the Poses Don’t Work – Adaptive & Accessible Yoga

This post is written by Sara F, a graduate of our 200-hour teacher training program. She’s been our a familiar face on Sunday nights, hosting at the front desk during our 6:00pm $5 Basics. Keep your eyes open for Sara on June 1 at 1:00pm for our Yoga in the Park: Pride Edition.

Have you ever been in a yoga class where the teacher instructs a pose, and you either stand/lay there knowing the pose won’t work for your body, or you silently struggle into it and hope it will end soon?

Or, on a more positive note, have you been in a yoga class where the teacher offers variations of a pose, often with different props? If the teacher gave different options, you have experienced accessible or adaptive yoga, which offers solutions that allow people of all abilities and body types to practice and benefit from yoga. At Queen Street Yoga you may have heard teachers refer to pose options as “bus stops,” and how far you ride down the bus route is up to you.

The experience or benefits of a pose can be achieved in different ways. Today, you may find that having your back knee on the mat in a low lunge is what works best for your body. Next week, you may get off at a different bus stop and lift your back knee and place your hands on blocks. Since all bodies are unique, one adaptation of a pose will not be suitable for all.

How I Realized that I Needed Accessible Yoga

My journey with accessible yoga began many years ago when I was practising in a studio that taught Ashtanga Yoga. I found the sequence to be uncomfortable and even painful. The only option I was offered was a refund for my membership, which left me feeling defeated and like I couldn’t do yoga. Fast-forward a decade to when I was practising at Queen Street Yoga, where I felt strong, confident and supported in my practice. I even was attending Carin’s intense classes!

At what felt like the physical peak of my yoga journey, I was rear-ended in a car accident and left with a concussion, whiplash, balance issues and a shoulder injury. I felt like I was back to square one. With the help of physiotherapy, massage, and chiropractic treatments, I was able to slowly begin practising yoga again The wonderful QSY teachers encouraged me to go at my own pace, offering me modifications and showing me different ways to use blocks and blankets to support my practice.

This first-hand lived experience of chronic pain and limited mobility continues to influence my personal yoga practice, and it motivated me to attend the first Accessible Yoga Conference held in Toronto in June 2018. AY is a global, grassroots organization dedicated to sharing the teachings of yoga with everyone—including people with disabilities, chronic illness, seniors, those who have been underserved, do not have access, and anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable in a regular yoga class.

Do you have a body and breath? Great! Then you can do yoga. See you on the mat, on a chair, or maybe even in the park.

More About Sara’s Offerings

I will be offering a 7-week Chair Yoga course on Mondays at 6:00pm called at the Causerie starting May 6. The Causerie is a more accessible location with a few stairs into the building and into the practice room, unlike the few flights of stairs into Queen Street Yoga. Send this blog post along to someone you think would be interested in a more accessible, chair-based yoga class. They can register here.

In July 2018 I completed my first 200 Hr Yoga Teacher Training through QSY and I am now an Accessible Yoga Ambassador! This means that I am passionate and dedicated to bringing yoga to people who, for whatever number of reasons, may not be able to access a traditional yoga studio or practice. I continue to study ways to assist students in their movement practice. Most recently I learned about Trauma Informed Yoga from Tiffany Rose, and I will be attending an Accessible Yoga Training this summer.

Resources to learn more:

Sara (she/her) moved to downtown Kitchener in 2014 and became a Work Trade at QSY shortly after finding her way to the studio. Off the mat, Sara works in libraries, enjoys good coffee at downtown cafes, and embraces the joy of a quiet night at home with a stack of books and pot of tea.

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