Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Interview with Pranayama Mama (aka Myra Rubinstein) on the Breath

Accessible Yoga Blog: Where do you teach? Who is the population?

Myra: I have been volunteering as an assistant in adaptive/accessible yoga classes sponsored by Brooks Rehab Adaptive Sports and Recreation in Jacksonville, Florida. It is the high point of my week and one of the greatest joys of my life.
Our population includes people with a range of conditions, illnesses and injuries including traumatic brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, cancer, amputees, and congenital conditions. Some of the yoga students use a wheelchair while others are ambulatory.

One of the things I’ve noticed is how supportive the class participants are of each other. For this population, some of whom are homebound except to attend various sports activities offered by this program, the social interaction and support is as important as the class content. 

In the yoga classes, there are no standing poses used and poses are adapted to be done on a mat, chair or wheelchair. The classes are taught by Melissa Hirschman, my mentor, with several other very experienced teachers. In addition, volunteers from the community and local colleges assist by working one-on-one with students.

Accessible Yoga Blog: Can you share an experience that stands out?

Myra: They call me the Pranayama Mama because I feel very strongly about breath and even went for a degree in respiratory therapy because I felt the call to help people with their breath. It is the first thing we all have in common at birth as well as the last, at death. And yet, like so many things, we take it for granted.

I see breath as the most essential piece of yoga and one which can be helpful for every single student. I have one student who has no movement from the shoulders down, only a little control of his face, arms and hands. When he breathes “consciously” with me, it is pure joy as he connects his mind with his breath and his bodily sensations. His slight smile and eye contact tell me we have made a connection that we both value. Another student has built a new life for herself around going to the different sports activities offered by the program. But one day she was having family problems and having a bit of an emotional meltdown (it happens to all of us sometimes). Through some progressive relaxation and alternate nostril breathing, I was able to not only help her get through that present moment but also to take the breathing skill home to use again and again.

Accessible Yoga Blog: Why do you teach this group or this population?

Myra: I believe that even the most fit person with a healthy body can find themselves needing to adapt poses sometimes.From the beginning of my own yoga practice, I’ve learned ways of adapting yoga poses to suit my large-size body. When I took an adaptive yoga workshop taught by Melissa Hirschman, I fell in love with the content of the training andlater learned more when I took the Accessible Yoga 30-hour training with Jivana Heyman.

Accessible Yoga Blog: What are you excited to do next with your students?

Myra: I am excited to bring what I have learned at Amrit Yoga Institute to my students, whether or not they are in the specifically “adaptive/accessible” classes. The Amrit Method, known as Meditation in Motion, breaks down each pose with very specific instructions and includes a pause for awareness of bodily sensations between each pose. Sensation is the way our body speaks to us and allof us need to listen to our body whether we are adapting a pose or doing it perfectly to its fullest expression.

Myra Rubinstein lives in Jacksonville, Florida, with her husband, Leo. She has completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training at Amrit Yoga Institute in Salt Springs, Florida, and an Accessible Yoga 30-hour training with Jivana Heyman.

This post was edited by Priya Wagner, co-editor of the Accessible Yoga Blog and a member of Accessible Yoga’s Board of Directors.

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