adaptive yoga with hannahFor the past several years I have had the pleasure of teaching adaptive yoga to participants of the JF&CS day and residential programs for adults with disabilities. Participants tell me and show me that they look forward to our yoga time but honestly I think I might look forward to it even more. Teaching these adaptive classes is truly the highlight of my week! Here are just a few reasons why:

  • One young man shared with me that he got through a particularly busy and stressful day at work by reminding himself he would get to relax at yoga later that evening.
  • Another participant proudly proclaimed, while holding a challenging pose called one-leg downward dog, that he felt “really strong!”
  • Almost every time I lead a class through a series of balance poses, the palpably intense focus is followed by joyful exclamations of “I did it!”

These shared moments of triumph and self-exploration are at the heart of what makes yoga so powerful. Yoga can show us what we are capable of, can expand our sense of self, and helps us learn to support ourselves energetically and emotionally through the stresses of daily life. I am continually inspired by the resilient spirit and determination of my adaptive students; they are used to working very hard for their achievements and they are not afraid to fall down a few times along the way. We often laugh and joke together in class but my adaptive students definitely take their yoga practice seriously.

Yoga also serves as a powerful tool for social connection. Participants in my classes practice at their own level; some use a chair or a wall to support their poses, some spend part of the class resting, and some demonstrate boundless energy and impressive athletic skills. Participants in my classes also learn in many different ways; some tune in to the visual supports I provide, some learn best when I practice with them side-by-side, and others tend to sit back and observe until they are ready to show off what they can do. Despite these differences, there is always a meaningful sense of shared experience when we are all breathing together and relaxing together. In yoga and in life, we all show up with the bodies, minds, and abilities that we have in the moment. Yoga is a celebration of each moment, of all that we are, and all that we are evolving to be.

Hannah Gould, MEd, E-RYT is a special educator and yoga teacher with more than a decade of experience teaching yoga to children and adults with special needs. Hannah has taught in schools, clinical programs, and yoga studios throughout the MetroWest Boston area. Hannah specializes in teaching yoga to students with autism spectrum disorders and she developed the Yoga Connects visual yoga program to meet the specific needs of this population. She is excited to begin offering adaptive yoga classes for teens and adults with autism at local yoga studios throughout Greater Boston. Group classes, private sessions, workshops, and trainings are also available. Contact Hannah at hannah@yogaconnects.org or 617-640-0450 for more information.

Originally posted on the JF&CS blog.

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