STR E N GT H, F L E X I BI L I T Y , B A LA NCE , A ND T H E CA P A CIT Y T O take a
deep breath...these attributes are meaningful to everyone. Over the past few decades, millions of Americans have turned to yoga and mindfulness practices to help them grow in body, mind, and spirit...perhaps you are one of them. Yoga is famous for helping its practitioners develop internally and externally, and it's these holistic benefits that keep yoga students coming back to their mats (or chairs!). Standing and other weight bearing yoga postures such as Warrior poses and Sun Salutations help build muscular strength and may increase bone density, which is important for healthy aging. Poses that move the spine in a variety of directions help with flexibility and functional mobility. These include Sphinx, Child’s, Side Bends, and Twists. Balance is built through poses like Tree, Eagle, and Crescent Lunge, which challenge the body and the mind to focus. Breath exercises can help calm the nervous system, which can help lower blood pressure heart rate, and can help develop more efficient breathing patterns, too. These benefits appear whether a yoga practice is fast and flowing like Vinyasa style or calm and slow like Gentle Yoga. And then, of course, there is the additional benefit of recognizing an interconnectedness between things ... the breath and body, the body and mind, the individual and the community, the community and the world. LKN EXPERT
Sarah Henderson, RYT 500, believes the yoga mat is a good place to explore what it means to be fully human. She is passionate about appreciating people’s individual strengths and encourages them to practice yoga with the body and mind they have, no matter the limitations or diagnoses that others have given them. She lives in Charlotte, NC, where she teaches yoga to people of all abilities at area non-profits including Nevins, Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides person-centered and employment services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Find Sarah on Instagram @sarahhendersonyoga and Facebook at Sarah Henderson Yoga.
L AK ENORMAN
These benefits are available for all yoga students, including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities such as those that I teach at Nevins Inc. Students with disabilities enjoy the physical and mental challenges of yoga, find more comfort and ease in their bodies with regular strengthening and stretching, and are able to use the meditation practices to relieve stress and practice for life’s challenging moments off the mat. They can find ways to connect with their inner lives and with their peers, just like other yoga students do. Additionally, the strategies employed by adaptive and accessible yoga teachers can help students increase their social-emotional skills, verbal and expressive communications, and their capacity to deal with negative feelings and behaviors that may be alienating to others. Our classes at Nevins end with a resting meditation, a sharing circle, and a time for students to give a brief reflection on how they feel after their yoga practice. The words I often hear (or sometimes see if someone uses American Sign Language) are peaceful, calm, relaxed, and happy. If you have practiced yoga, you may recognize these feelings from your own experience. If you are looking for a way to connect with someone you love, with or without a disability, or with your own inner landscape, give some yoga a try. Even a few minutes of focused effort might just change your whole day! w WRITER SARAH HENDERSON