Wheelchair yoga

Yoga Following a Spinal Cord Injury

Those who have sustained a spinal cord injury and suffer from paralysis may think they can’t enjoy all the physical activities they used to. Whilst some injuries may indeed prevent someone from taking part in a sport or particular exercise. But this is certainly not always the case and there are many ways to stay active, such as by getting involved in adaptive sports and following specific exercise routines.

One activity that is quite popular is yoga. This is a complete physical, spiritual and mental activity that can be practised at different levels and generally makes a huge difference to the individual’s sense of health and wellbeing.

What is Yoga?

Yoga is not just an exercise regime, it’s actually a whole way of life. Practitioners of yoga in ancient India spent years honing their movements and developing stretches to bring spiritual enlightenment.

The essence of modern yoga is to work on the spine and joints. Whilst there are many different types you can try, at its heart, it’s about aligning the body and improving suppleness as much as it is getting an aerobic workout or building strength.

The good thing about yoga is that it can be easily adapted to the individual’s needs. Just because you are in a wheelchair or have reduced mobility doesn’t mean you can’t take part.

One of the big benefits of yoga is that it concentrates on the process of breathing and can therefore help improve lung capacity.

Benefits of Yoga Following a Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injury yoga

Yoga exercise for individuals who have sustained a serious spinal cord injury have been developed over the years and there’s no reason why one cannot benefit from them with a little practice.

  • Yoga can be practiced anywhere and benefits can be gained from it almost immediately.
  • It helps improve posture, build lung capacity, fix balance promote greater flexibility.
  • Individuals who practice yoga often have better focus and feel calmer within themselves.
  • With improved mobility, there is less risk of secondary health complications such as pressure sores.

Spinal cord injury patients will generally tailor their yoga practice to fit in with their level of mobility. Some will use it to improve flexibility and others might practice it to help prevent secondary health issues which are associated with spinal cord injuries.

Examples of Wheelchair Yoga Poses

There is a whole community of wheelchair users who advocate yoga as a way to keep fit and maintain good mental health. Some of the most common yoga poses for wheelchair uses include:

  • The cat pose: Simply grip the sides of your wheelchair or place your hands in your lap. Breath out and drop your head and curve your torso over, letting your spine arch. Stay in this position and breath gently but reasonably deeply for a few minutes. Come up slowly and relax.
  • The hip stretch: Breath in and lift your left leg gently over the right. If you have enough stability and movement, you can lean forward to increase the stretch. Hold it for about 20 seconds as you breathe normally. Relax and then reverse the process with your right leg.
  • The eagle pose: Breathing in, simply lift your arms to the side and upwards. Cross your arms at the elbows and put the backs of your palms together, maintaining as straight a spine and neck as possible. Stay in this pose while breathing gently, holding it for about 30 seconds before relaxing and lowering your arms.

Things to Consider

The above posts are just a few exercises can be performed from a wheelchair. They are great for both physical health and the mind.

Wheelchair yoga is not suitable for everyone, however. After sustaining a spinal cord injury, it’s important to talk things through with a medical professional beginning any type of physical activity.

It’s also important to practice yoga whilst someone else is nearby, either other people practicing yoga, a physiotherapist or a friend/family member.

With yoga, it’s important not to overexert yourself. If you feel a small stretch then that’s fine. You should never try to overextend or go beyond your natural mobility. This may happen naturally over time but it’s important to never push things too far.

Finally, always focus on your breathing, as this can produce really beneficial effects for your sense of wellbeing and mental health. There are many different ways to exercise following a spinal cord injury, but yoga is certainly one of the most beneficial when it comes to all-round health.