Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Why Accessible Yoga Matters

by Marie Prashanti Goodell

There are more than 300 million yogis in the world today, according to the Global Growth in Yoga video produced by the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh India. In ancient times, yoga was restricted to the upper classes. Now many people enjoy the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of their yoga practice.

Many recent studies suggest that yoga can help cope with anxiety, depression and distress and in general improve quality of life (1, 2, 3, 4). The ability of getting in touch with our body and our mind can be a powerful tool to deal with difficult physical and mental conditions and a growing number of scientific researches are highlighting the role that yoga can play in improving quality of life of people living with chronic diseases and disabilities

Sharing the Benefits of Yoga with Everyone

Despite these benefits, not everyone feels welcome in a yoga class. Sadly, many classes simply are not accessible to students with disabilities, health problems or chronic illness. Some people don’t feel welcome in the yoga world because of age, class, race, size, gender or sexual orientation. Additionally, yoga teachers may lack the training to make their classes truly accessible to anyone who has the courage to walk (or wheel) through the door. Without proper training, it can be scary to welcome every person who attends class, but this is where we trust our teachers and community to help us expand our knowledge so that we can support diversity across a global community.

Accessible Yoga is an international, grassroots, non-profit organization dedicated to sharing yoga with everyone. Our goal is to share the benefits of yoga with anyone who currently doesn’t have access to these practices, including communities that have been excluded or undeserved.

Communities without access include people of all shapes and sizes, all colors and kinds. They include people with physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, and invisible disabilities such as chronic illness, emotional challenges, or PTSD. They include people with vision or hearing impairments, walkers and wheelchairs. They are young, middle-aged and senior. They live in homes, juvenile halls, jails, or are homeless. This list reminds us that what we really need to stretch is our own minds and our image of what a yoga practitioner looks like. “The reality is that if you have a body and a mind,” says Jivana Heyman, founder of Accessible Yoga, “you can do yoga”.

How Can We Make Yoga More Accessible?

One of the first steps is helping yoga teachers become more comfortable and confident in welcoming all people to their yoga classes. The Accessible Yoga organization holds conferences twice a year where international experts offer sessions, workshops, panels, and networking to share ideas and practices. Accessible Yoga training programs guide teachers in how to adapt asana, pranayama, meditation, philosophy, and contemplation to meet the needs of the individual. In addition, the Accessible Yoga organization and sponsors offer financial assistance and scholarships to deserving teachers to attend the conferences.

Another step is to help our global yoga community become more diverse. Through an online, global Accessible Yoga Network, yoga teachers can learn from close to five hundred Accessible Yoga Ambassadors willing to share their knowledge and experience. In addition, regional groups share articles, tips & tricks, and images through social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram.

Last but not least, Accessible Yoga advocates for underserved communities in the larger community. “Accessible Yoga is about identifying the barriers that keep underserved and marginalized populations away from yoga”, says Dianne Bondy, an Accessible Yoga Ambassador and board member. “It is about having a place for everyone on the mat, whether it is asana, philosophy, meditation, contemplation, or self-expression. The message of yoga is that all beings are welcome!”

How Can You Get Involved?

Yoga is a beautiful gift to the world that we can all unwrap and enjoy. It provides tools that offer us moments of peace and can lead to lives of dedication and fulfillment. We can all be Accessible Yoga Ambassadors by making a commitment to reach out to people without access to the teachings of yoga, and by continuing to practice and embody the teachings in our own lives.

See Conferences about our upcoming Accessible Yoga Conference.  Don’t miss this opportunity to get in touch with the international Accessible Yoga network! Together we can make a great difference!

To get more information and to find out about becoming an Accessible Yoga Ambassador, visit accessibleyoga.orgor send us a message.

Marie Prashanti Goodell, C-IAYT & RYT-500, turned to yoga to manage stress more effectively while working as a high-tech marketing manager in Silicon Valley. Now she teaches Hatha, restorative classes and 1:1 yoga therapy sessions at Integral Yoga Institute in San Francisco, wheelchair yoga at Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in San Francisco, and stress management at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute championed by Dr. Dean Ornish. Marie incorporates many dimensions of yoga to support healing and wellness including physical postures, breathing exercises, deep relaxation, meditation, imagery and visualization, gentle touch, Reiki, mantra and yoga philosophy. Marie is a board member of the IYI San Francisco and the Accessible Yoga Organization.

° FOLLOW Accessible Yoga on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube.

° REGISTER here for our next conference.

° DONATE here to help us bring yoga to people who don’t have access or have been underserved, such as people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, children with special needs, and anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable in a regular yoga class.

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