Yoga is one of the best forms of exercise. It can be practiced by people of all sorts of body types, fitness levels, abilities or disabilities, and it has been proven to have countless benefits to both the physical self and mental health. Wheelchair yoga is widely promoted because yoga by nature is less vigorous and can be practiced with minimal movements.
However, if you are a wheelchair user and wish to have a go at yoga, be sure to consult your doctor or therapist first. As a beginner, you should only practice yoga in the presence of a caregiver. If you experience any pain or discomfort when performing a yoga pose, immediately stop and consult an expert because although yoga has a whole lot of benefits, it can also be damaging if not performed correctly.
Here are some benefits of yoga:
- Increased muscle strength
- Increased flexibility; can prevent muscle spasticity
- Improved breathing and blood flow, subsequently improving lungs and heart health
- Improved focus that helps with cognitive abilities
- Decreased stress and anxiety resulting in improved sleep and mood
- increased joint strength
There are many more benefits to be gained from practicing yoga. For most people it has been life changing. Here are 6 yoga poses to try for a wheelchair user:
- The Cow Pose
This pose stretches the front of your body and opens up your chest.
- Begin by either holding on to the bottom of the seat, or by placing your hands on your thighs.
- Slowly inhale while lifting your chest, and gently lifting your chin towards the ceiling.
- You may hold that pose for a few seconds. It is followed by the Cat Pose.
- The Cat Pose
This poses complements the Cow Pose and stretches the back.
- Begin in the Cow Pose.
- Slowly exhale while rounding out your back and tucking your chin in.
- You may also hold this pose for a couple of seconds.
- Repeat the Cow Pose and Cat Pose a few times.
- Forward Arm Stretch
This exercise stretches your arms and wrists.
- Begin by stretching your arms forward and tucking your shoulders in.
- Bend your wrists downwards and begin the breathing motion;
- Inhale while moving both arms to each side, maintaining the stretch, and then exhale while moving your arms back to the front.
- Do this a few times slowly.
- Eagle Pose and Stretch
This is a pose to stretch your shoulders and back.
- Begin by lifting your arms forward and bending your elbows so your fingers point upwards. Inhale while doing this step.
- As you exhale, cross your arms at the elbows and make sure your palms are facing back to back against each other.
- Hold the pose for about 30 seconds. If you want, you can then slowly push your elbows upwards while inhaling giving your shoulders and upper back more stretch, and then exhaling while bringing the elbows down and rounding your back slightly.
- Once you are more flexible, you can cross the elbows till the palms face each other.
- Side Body Stretch
This exercise stretches your lower back.
- Begin by lifting your arms up while inhaling, fingers pointing upwards.
- Slowly stretch your body to either the left or right side while exhaling.
- Inhale and return to the middle, then exhale and stretch over the other side.
- Repeat this exercise a few times, holding each position for a few seconds.
- Body Twist Stretch
This is also an exercise to stretch your back and loosen your hips.
- Begin by placing one hand on the outer side of your opposite thigh. Meaning either left hand to right thigh, or right hand to left thigh.
- Place your other hand at the back of the chair, slowly inhale and twist your body to the same side as the outer thigh.
- Hold that position for a few seconds, and then exhale and release back to the original sitting position.
- Next, twist to the opposite side with the same technique and release. Repeat this a few times.
- If you practice it regularly, you can then place your hand on the chair handle instead of the outer thigh for more twist.
Here is a YouTube video link to watch and understand these yoga poses and stretches better: