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Yoga and People with Restricted Movements

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In this funky age of diverse availability of yoga styles and studios the constant influx of mobile and reasonably healthy people into classes is a relatively easy prospect deal with for most competent yoga teachers. While many young people can be stiff and awkward in gait if they have not exercised for years they have some advantages in that they still have young muscles and soft tissue. This gives them something to develop and in a few months they can be well on the road to having more flexible and toned dimensions.

 

Many people out there who are passed mid life or not and have unwanted weight after years or decades of inappropriate diets and lack of exercise are often deterred from yoga classes thinking they'll never cope because they are inflexible and frumpy. This is sad because these people are missing so much .

You do get a few who find the courage to give yoga a try if its only because they are badgered into it by a friend or partner but they can soon be disheartened if their progress is slow or they struggle to cope with the postures.

 Chunk Things Down

What does a yoga teacher then do if they are confronted with a student who is overweight and imbalanced and even finds it tricky to walk evenly and in their first mixed ability class! Hmmmm!...That class could make or break their future in yoga. If the class is pitched above them they can go away disheartened never to return. If its pitched to them the remainder of the class can go away dissatisfied.

 

A remedial yoga class could be the answer where low key yoga is practised making plenty of allowances for student capability. This gives them time to gain in strength and flexibility and they can often surprise themselves at how they progress within months. After a while they will be ready to attend a regular beginners class.

Or after discussion with their teacher if they still feel more comfortable with remedial long term this can still be beneficial to them.

 

A useful approach to yoga posture for students with limited range of movement is to use posture de-construction. This principle is usually a teachers tool but even students reasonably conversant with a range of yoga postures can apply deconstruction.

 

De-construction is fairly simple and basically means chunking down or breaking down a posture so that students are aware of a range of stages that may of may not bring them to the ultimate true form of the posture. In other words they just go in the right direction and stop well short of where the posture becomes over challenging.

 

This kind of approach can also be used with advanced postures and more capable students and even with advanced and difficult poses. So for example it can be tremendously beneficial to work with sequences that in theory “prepare” for an advanced posture, say Patient Crane Pose, Handstand, Headstand etc Even if a student never achieves the objective pose the foundation work can still bring great dividends.

 

So going back to basic de-construction, if there are 4 stages before the ultimate positioning it may be within student capability to reach stage 2 and keep returning to this stage until they can go to stage 3 and so on.

 

Of course a skilful yoga teacher can quickly assess their overall student capability identifying one or more students in the group with poor or potentially poor range of movement and deftly build into their class sequence de-constuction of any challenging poses giving all their students an option they can cope with.

 When Easy Yoga Still not an Option

You may say “Well what if the student can't even cope with stage one!”

Well the skill then becomes quickly suggesting an even more modest position than stage one. Or it could mean in the last resort getting them to relax and imagine they can move into that stage one position. I think this last resort stage is perfectly acceptable in extreme cases and it at least gives the struggling student the chance to

see themselves in their mind achieving something until they move on the next posture.

 

For those beginner students who find most yoga postures inaccessible if there is no remedial or restorative class available then it might be useful to do some simple exercises for a while – even if only in a chair. If you think you are in this position don't be afraid of approaching a yoga teacher and asking their advice on how to proceed.

 

My message though is to give yoga a chance but be prepared to have to practice patience as well as the postures. If you persevere with yoga practice you will reap many benefits over time. It's a strong medicine that takes a little while to work but when it does it will surprise you. Think about making yoga a way of life rather than a quick fix to get you more flexible. Remember also that yoga is not just about posturing. It's also about correcting and strengthening your breathing, learning how to become an expert at relaxation and finding out more about your body, mind and spirit so that you can improve the quality of your life and how you relate to others.

 

Barry Todd (HathaYogaMan)

 

In this funky age of diverse availability of yoga styles and studios the constant influx of mobile and reasonably healthy people into classes is a relatively easy prospect deal with for most competent yoga teachers. While many young people can be stiff and awkward in gait if they have not exercised for years they have some advantages in that they still have young muscles and soft tissue. This gives them something to develop and in a few months they can be well on the road to having more flexible and toned dimensions.

 

Many people out there who are passed mid life or not and have unwanted weight after years or decades of inappropriate diets and lack of exercise are often deterred from yoga classes thinking they'll never cope because they are inflexible and frumpy. This is sad because these people are missing so much .

You do get a few who find the courage to give yoga a try if its only because they are badgered into it by a friend or partner but they can soon be disheartened if their progress is slow or they struggle to cope with the postures.

 

What does a yoga teacher then do if they are confronted with a student who is overweight and imbalanced and even finds it tricky to walk evenly and in their first mixed ability class! Hmmmm!...That class could make or break their future in yoga. If the class is pitched above them they can go away disheartened never to return. If its pitched to them the remainder of the class can go away dissatisfied.

 

A remedial yoga class could be the answer where low key yoga is practised making plenty of allowances for student capability. This gives them time to gain in strength and flexibility and they can often surprise themselves at how they progress within months. After a while they will be ready to attend a regular beginners class.

Or after discussion with their teacher if they still feel more comfortable with remedial long term this can still be beneficial to them.

 

A useful approach to yoga posture for students with limited range of movement is to use posture de-construction. This principle is usually a teachers tool but even students reasonably conversant with a range of yoga postures can apply deconstruction.

 

De-construction is fairly simple and basically means chunking down or breaking down a posture so that students are aware of a range of stages that may of may not bring them to the ultimate true form of the posture. In other words they just go in the right direction and stop well short of where the posture becomes over challenging.

 

This kind of approach can also be used with advanced postures and more capable students and even with advanced and difficult poses. So for example it can be tremendously beneficial to work with sequences that in theory “prepare” for an advanced posture, say Patient Crane Pose, Handstand, Headstand etc Even if a student never achieves the objective pose the foundation work can still bring great dividends.

 

So going back to basic de-construction, if there are 4 stages before the ultimate positioning it may be within student capability to reach stage 2 and keep returning to this stage until they can go to stage 3 and so on.

 

Of course a skilful yoga teacher can quickly assess their overall student capability identifying one or more students in the group with poor or potentially poor range of movement and deftly build into their class sequence de-constuction of any challenging poses giving all their students an option they can cope with.

 

You may say “Well what if the student can't even cope with stage one!”

Well the skill then becomes quickly suggesting an even more modest position than stage one. Or it could mean in the last resort getting them to relax and imagine they can move into that stage one position. I think this last resort stage is perfectly acceptable in extreme cases and it at least gives the struggling student the chance to

see themselves in their mind achieving something until they move on the next posture.

 

For those beginner students who find most yoga postures inaccessible if there is no remedial or restorative class available then it might be useful to do some simple exercises for a while – even if only in a chair. If you think you are in this position don't be afraid of approaching a yoga teacher and asking their advice on how to proceed.

 

My message though is to give yoga a chance but be prepared to have to practice patience as well as the postures. If you persevere with yoga practice you will reap many benefits over time. It's a strong medicine that takes a little while to work but when it does it will surprise you. Think about making yoga a way of life rather than a quick fix to get you more flexible. Remember also that yoga is not just about posturing. It's also about correcting and strengthening your breathing, learning how to become an expert at relaxation and finding out more about your body, mind and spirit so that you can improve the quality of your life and how you relate to others.

 

Barry Todd (HathaYogaMan)

 

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  1. Eunice Ogden

    I have really enjoyed reading your articles Barry. It is so true that yoga should be a way of life, not just about postures. After practicing from my mid twenties and reaching my re-cycled teenager years I know the difficulties my body throws at me, but I am thankful that I have yoga in my life and without it my body wouldn't be as supple as it is now. I am fortunate to have a teacher that does exactly what you are talking about and love meditation.

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