All about Adaptive Yoga

All about Adaptive Yoga

We sat down with Miranda McCarthy, founder of Adaptive Yoga LIVE: to find out all about their amazing work and why yoga is for everyone! 

Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Miranda McCarthy and in April, with a small team of four volunteers, I launched Adaptive Yoga LIVE: free online 'adaptive' yoga classes for the disabled community.

Adaptive yoga is designed to make yoga more accessible. Especially for those who have injury, limitations, physical restrictions, or disabilities.

What is your aim and why?

Initially, our aim was to get our tiny class of eight students on to Zoom, so that we could continue our practice and keep in touch. One of the loveliest aspects of joining an adaptive yoga class was meeting other disabled people on the same journey of self-discovery and self-improvement. Our limitations bonded us as a group, and through the practice, we acquired the tools to manage the stress of living with a disability on a daily basis. Through yoga we learned to use the body to calm the mind.

Knowing that disabled people would be forced into self-isolation for months on end, my friend, and founder of the charity Adaptive Yoga Network, Louise Edwards, joined me in response to the urgent need to support the more vulnerable and physically challenged people in this current period of lockdown during Covid-19.

Disabled people face isolation on a daily basis - whether it’s through fatigue, inaccessibility to places, or social exclusion. If this pandemic has taught us anything - it’s that isolation is soul-destroying. That’s why we decided to broadcast free online classes to help unite the disabled community during these difficult times. Our goal is to bring disabled people together through yoga!

Who is adaptive yoga suitable for?

Adaptive yoga teaches you to use the mind to bring awareness to the body, through physical postures, partnered with the breath, and meditation practices, regardless of the student’s level of ability. Classical yoga postures are adapted, with the use of props and chairs, to the needs of students living with a disability.

The emphasis is on the experience within each yoga pose - not simply their physical accomplishments. Awareness moves through the mind-body relationship both with and without muscular action. It is about the discovery of a subtle level of mind-body sensation that is not impeded by disability.

Our students have a wide range of health conditions including Spina bifida, Arthritis, MS, Cerebral Palsy, Parkinsons Disease, Fibromyalgia, Stroke, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Paraplegia, Epiphyseal Dysplasia, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Chronic Back pain, and more. 100% of our students say they feel more relaxed after the practice.

Are adaptive yoga approaches as beneficial as traditional yoga?

Yes! Whether it’s traditional yoga, or adaptive yoga, both journeys lead to empowerment. They say everyone’s journey is different, some say spiritual but my journey has taught me self-compassion.

I have had Rheumatoid Arthritis since the age of two. It's a painful disease that attacks the synovial fluid around the joints - eventually the joint is destroyed before it needs to be replaced. So far, I have had 10 joint replacement surgeries, and YEARS of physiotherapy. Before yoga I felt constantly at war with my body, my body was attacking me, it was my enemy.

Through 40 years of operations, rehabilitation, and medication my focus was only on managing my disease. After multiple surgeries and learning to walk again (several times over), I had become very aware of my body in space. I needed to protect it. Falling would mean more time in hospital. I became so in tune with my body, even, to the point of craving food which would help reduce my inflammation. I thought I knew my body inside and out - until I discovered adaptive yoga. At the age of 42, I realized my ‘relationship’ with my body, had only just begun!

Yoga, for me, was about crafting a new healing, accepting, and loving narrative around my own body image. Yoga taught me to thank my heart for beating, to honour myself for the work I put in, to be kinder to myself- even as far as to give myself a hug. I no longer judged myself - or compared myself to abled bodied people. I gained a newfound love for my body and a love for myself.

Yoga shows you a way of re-inhabiting the body, with greater harmony and ease, no matter how painful the body may feel. Learning to live with the body rather than fighting against it is truly the path to a richer, more satisfying, quality of life.

Who is teaching the live classes?

Our first two volunteer teachers, Karen Russell, and Paulo Concepcion are both expert yoga teachers, each with more than 500 hours of yoga teacher training. We have just welcomed two new teachers to the team! Paola Merlassino, who specialises in Akhanda yoga, has just finished Accessible Yoga teacher training with Jivana Heyman. Basma Gale has a physiotherapy degree, she trained as a natural health practitioner and has spent 18 years as a Holistic therapist, working privately and in the NHS. All our teachers are specially trained in adaptive yoga through Frederique Sardais.

How can we watch the live classes?

You can watch our free adaptive yoga classes online at adaptiveyogalive.com on our Facebook page or YouTube channel.

The free classes are running on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Sundays at 3pm BST.

How do we support your initiative?

There are so many fantastic fitness and health resources online and on social media to help people stay fit and keep moving – but it is vital that people with disabilities aren’t being left out of that conversation.

Every disabled person should have access to an adaptive yoga class to ensure a better quality of life. Living with a disability is a difficult journey and staying active is essential to wellbeing. I have found yoga to be life changing and its why I launched Adaptive Yoga LIVE.

We need your support to keep the classes running for free. If you are in a position to do so, please, donate to our GoFundMe campaign.

Help us transform disabled peoples lives through the power of yoga!

Miranda is wearing our ethical activewear. You can shop her look here.

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