Yoga is an ancient Indian practice which involves moving the body and training the mind to achieve balance and well-being. The purpose of traditional yoga is for each individual to be healthy, both physically and mentally, and able to reach his or her highest potential as a person.
When I discovered Chair Yoga, I saw the chair as the support that would allow everybody, no matter their flexibility or fitness level, to be able to experience the benefits of yoga. Yoga can be beneficial for individuals with disabilities or chronic health conditions through both the physical postures and breathwork. Each yoga pose can be modified or adapted to meet the needs of the student.
Before COVID-19 every Wednesday I would teach a Chair Yoga class that was super special for me. Arriving in Hollyhill every Wednesday afternoon I would get to meet the residents in house number 6 in Cope Foundation. When I arrived the first day, the residents did not really know what to expect when they were told they were going to practice Chair Yoga with Sara. Nevertheless, every single one of them would smile at me when I introduced myself and asked them for their names: David, Martin, Ger, Mike, Stuart, Eilish, Geraldine… and many more joined the following weeks.
With the great support of the activation staff (Pamela and Kasia) we were able to start the Chair Yoga Class. I specialize in teaching Chair Yoga as I found that Chair Yoga makes yoga accessible to people living with mobility impairment and disability. Adapting the class to each individual was key. Some are in a wheel chair, others have down syndrome, are blind, have intellectual disabilities and / or autism. Which made the class a lot of fun as I had to really test how chair yoga could help each on them on their own ability.
As the weeks went on, they went from not knowing what tree pose was to actually look forward to their Chair Yoga class and cheer as I was entering the room as they knew Chair Yoga was on! What a fantastic feeling as a teacher to come to a class where there is no expectation other than have fun and enjoy themselves.
Yoga has been proved to help students with disabilities in different ways:
increased verbal and non-verbal communication skills (eye contact and body posture),
improved self-regulation skills,
After few classes, I was able to see their progress and noticed their concentration levels increasing from few minutes the first few classes to nearly 30 minutes class at the end.
Pamela Twomey from the activation staff team shared with me “When we started our journey first with chair yoga it would of been a first for the people we support and there would of been a bit of nervousness about it but Sara put everyone at ease and explained every move she was doing and modified and adapted them to our needs which was so important in our class . As the weeks went on everyone got very relaxed and looked forward to yoga with Sara. The meditation was my favourite at the end the learning to quieten the mind was amazing we went from no one closing their eyes at the start to eventually people drifting off learning to trust their bodies and the work Sara was doing was great. Thanks Sara”
With COVID-19 all classes had to be postponed for the foreseeable future and being that they are such a high-risk individuals, I am not sure I will get to visit them any time soon. That is the reason why this year I would like to celebrate ‘International Yoga Day’ (21st of June at 11 am - 11.30 am) teaching a chair yoga class in aid of Cope Foundation. The residents of house 6 are go