Have you ever wanted to try out your neighborhood yoga class, but figured that your disability might make all those funky poses difficult? Or taken a yoga class, only to find that the teacher did not understand how to modify the poses to work with your unique body?
I understand these quandaries. I wondered about the possibility of taking a yoga class as I rolled by the many yoga studios in my old neighborhood. When I finally gathered up the guts to sign up for a class, the teacher had no idea how to work with a student who had a significant disability. A few years later, I saw a posting for an adaptive yoga class taught by JoAnn Lyons, and decided to give yoga another shot.
Now, most Saturdays you’ll find my husband and me doing Downward Facing Dog pose stretched over an inflated exercise ball or moving through countless other poses in safe and creative ways. Lyons knows just how to modify an asana (pose) or arrange a set of props so that each student can engage with the class and experience the intended benefits of a particular movement.
Lyons has taught yoga for 20 years to students with a wide variety of disabilities in Oakland, California. “It has always been my goal to spread the word that people with disabilities can attend yoga classes and to give yoga teachers a gentle push in that direction,” Lyons said.
She leads workshops across the country to anyone interested in teaching yoga to people with disabilities and special needs. The students who attend these workshops come from a variety of professions and individual interests. Some attendees are yoga teachers, physical therapists, or people from the community with a basic knowledge of yoga principles.
This last group is often interested in helping a friend or family member to have a successful yoga practice. If you know of someone who might be interested in teaching yoga to people with disabilities or assisting with their practice, please pass along Lyons’ contact information listed below.
During these fun, multi-day workshops, Lyons demonstrates how to modify poses and work with students who have a range of disabilities and conditions. “The most important part of my workshop is when the participants have the opportunity to actually work with people with disabilities. It’s a great learning experience for everyone.”
Lyons is currently looking for people with disabilities in Columbus, Ohio who may be interested in volunteering for these workshops. They are completely free of charge to volunteers with disabilities. No prior yoga experience is necessary for this group of volunteer students, although the workshop might just pique your interest in this ancient practice. All of the host studios are wheelchair accessible.
My husband and I have volunteered for many of these teacher training workshops. They are always safe, fun, and dynamic places to learn more about yoga while teaching others about having a disability. We always have the option of trying a new pose or choosing to opt out of anything that makes us uncomfortable. Her ultimate goal is to have the student volunteers get as much from a workshop as the nondisabled participants.
If you have any questions or are interested in coming to a workshop, please contact JoAnn at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Piedmont Yoga Community website to learn more about JoAnn and her classes.
The adaptive yoga workshop in Columbus, Ohio, will take place from 2 pm to 4 pm on Saturday, July 15, at the Yoga on High Studio. The host studio contact is Marcia Miller, 614/291-4444; Marcia@yogaonhigh.com.