Yoga Asanas For Disabled And Handicapped People

By Patricia | May 15, 2009
Yoga For Disabilities

Yoga is a very ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that is known to have emerged from India. The discipline involves training of the body and mind to bring balance into life. This practice largely focusses on the harmony of the body, mind and spirit. Hence, the purpose of yoga is to promote health and all round well-being.

In recent times, yoga for physically handicapped has emerged as a new concept that can help the handicapped rise above their physical and mental challenges to attain good health and general well-being. The gentle stretching of yoga poses is not only good for those who are physically challenged but also for those who suffer from debilitating diseases such as arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

A routine of yoga exercises for the handicapped can be therapeutic in many ways. The central breathing discipline is cleansing, and the asanas or poses help the handicapped overcome physical limitations. Like any other practitioners, the handicapped also start their practice of yoga with the simple primary poses for beginners. As they become more comfortable with the discipline and their physical prowess grows, they can graduate to the next level of difficulty.

Yoga for disabled children can help them grow at a pace that matches that of their peers. With the help of specific yoga poses and postures, they can gain competitiveness and can become more agile. They also experience a feeling of clam, which helps them face the day to day challenges their lives pose. Yoga therapy for the mentally handicapped also has similar calming and soothing benefits, which help them become more independent.

Yoga for people with disabilities is a specialized discipline which requires special training and instruction. Teaching special needs children and adults requires specialized training and sensitization. The instructors need to empathize with the needs of their pupils. Along with that, they should also be able to distinguish the therapeutic needs of the various groups of practitioners and teach them accordingly.

Special needs teacher training can be received at various institutes all over the United States of America. These institutes offer registered courses for yoga practitioners who want to become instructors to differently-abled people. Here, they learn various different types of yoga such as wheelchair yoga, laughter yoga with disabled and kundalini yoga for disabled, to name a few. Some institutes also offer specialized courses to teach Pilates to disabled.

Yoga Poses for Handicapped

There are no specific yoga poses for handicapped as such. However, some poses can be adapted for them. A typical yoga class for the handicapped lasts for about 45 minutes to an hour. A session is typically divided into several sections. The session starts with a soothing prayer session to calm the minds and is followed with cleansing breathing exercises such as pranayama. The yoga poses for handicapped usually follow the breathing exercises. Some of the popular poses for the differently abled include the Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog), Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog), Dandasana (Staff Pose) and Ardha Matsyendrasana (Spinal Twist). These poses are tweaked slightly according to the physical challenges of the practitioners. These poses not only improve the flexibility of the practitioners, they also offer several therapeutic benefits.

Many more poses can be tweaked to suit the needs of the handicapped practitioner. Some of these poses are designed specifically for those who are on wheelchairs. Other poses may be designed to suit other physical challenges as well. Most instructors would determine the needs of each group of practitioners and prepare the poses accordingly.

In some yoga classes, each practitioner is given individual instruction and attention so that they are able to perform to their potential and reap maximum benefits. Typically, the instructors would avoid complicated poses like inversions for fear of injury. However, some practitioners may be physically able to take on the challenge and may feel equal to performing inversions as well.

Benefits of Yoga for Handicapped

Like any other practitioners, there are several benefits of yoga for handicapped as well. Some of the most common benefits of the poses for handicapped include:

  • Improved digestive system. The twisting and bending massages tshe internal organs and improves as well as stimulates the digestive system.
  • With the stretching and twisting movements, you can also improve your cardio vascular system. Both your heart and lungs benefit from the yoga poses performed in the class. Through the aerobic activities, you can improve your lung capacity and subsequently more oxygen is made available to all the vital organs of the body.
  • Another organ system that benefits from these yoga poses is the lymphatic system. The whole immune system becomes healthier. The active interaction between some of the vital organs also becomes more powerful. The soft muscles of the lungs and the diaphragm are also strengthened.
  • The skeletal and muscular systems of the body are also benefitted from the yoga poses for handicapped. The focus on balance and alignment in the yoga poses can be really beneficial for both the skeletal and the muscular systems. The poses also improve flexibility.

Yoga for Rehabilitation

Yoga can be performed for rehabilitation of various different diseases. Most yoga classes for the handicapped are aimed towards rehabilitation and improvement of health as well as physical abilities. Yoga for rehabilitation may not be very different from the general practice of yoga. The benefits of yoga are enough for rehabilitation, but some practitioners may require special attention. Those with physical disabilities may be rehabilitated with the help of both physical as well as relaxation techniques of yoga, whereas those with mental disabilities may benefit from the calming and relaxing techniques of yoga such as pranayama, deep breathing, meditation, and cleansing techniques.

Depending on the needs of the practitioner, some simple activities may also provide rehabilitation and relief. For instance, light stretching poses may be therapeutic for those suffering from arthritis. Similarly, those suffering from Parkinson’s may also be rehabilitated using simple yoga techniques and exercises. The yoga instructor is usually trained to understand the needs of the patients and provide rehabilitative relief accordingly.

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