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Last Updated on January 30, 2024

Can People in a Wheelchair Do Yoga?

Wheelchair yoga, when done right, can have similar benefits to traditional yoga methods. According to Johns Hopkins and several other institutions. Yoga can positively affect mobility, heart health, sleep quality, and overall strength and flexibility. Further, wheelchair yoga can be done anywhere since you don’t have to set up a mat — you can practice poses anywhere.

Yoga for disabled beginners can start with mindfulness and mild stretching. More advanced yoga for wheelchair users can include larger upper-body movements and potential lower-body poses. It’s important to stay fit so you can maneuver your wheelchair up ramps and around your home and public spaces.

What is wheelchair yoga? Read on to learn more.

Getting Started with Wheelchair Yoga

Before beginning any exercise regime, it’s important to speak with your doctor to learn of any physical limitations. For example, it might not be wise to do any movements where your heart is above your head. 

Further, props can help you begin your wheelchair yoga practice. Consider finding or purchasing a belt or strap, blanket, and yoga blocks. If balance is difficult for you, ensure you have a buddy with you or someone close by in case you need an assist. If you’re unsure of the poses or want to participate with a community, a simple Google search should provide you with local studios and options.

As you develop your wheelchair yoga practice, listen to your body and never force yourself into any movement. Yoga is a deeply personal experience not a competitive sport. It’s better to start slow with your flexibility and strength and work your way up.

Different Types of Wheelchair Yoga Poses

Wheelchair yoga is not a one-size-fits-all since not all disabilities or people are the same. What is the best yoga for limited mobility? Consider these options:

  • Chair yoga (with and without props): Try simple stretches and movements without a strap to understand your body’s natural limitations. Over time, or after a few breaths, add a strap for additional range of motion, but never push beyond what your body is naturally capable of.
  • Mixed chair and standing yoga: If you can leave your chair and stand, you can use your locked wheelchair for balance for increased mobility and flexibility.
  • Restorative yoga: This style of yoga requires two chairs, or another person and one chair, and props to help you relax into the poses.
  • Wheelchair yoga for wrists and arms: If you’re operating a wheelchair throughout the day, chances are your arms and wrists can use some attention with stretches, both with and without bands. You can even use one arm to provide an assist to the other.

Wheelchair Yoga Poses to Try

From the comfort of your wheelchair, try these poses. Again, only do what feels comfortable and natural for your body. Wheelchair yoga should be a relaxing and restorative endeavor, not a backbreaking challenge.Image of a person's silhouette doing yoga with a sunset behind for an article titled “Can People in Wheelchairs Do Yoga?”.

First start with breathing exercises to settle your mind and alert your body that it’s time to shift gears. Inhale and exhale to settle in, then breathe deeper before exhaling while elongating your spine to a straighter position. Wheelchair posture isn’t always the best, so this offers a nice starting point to activate your muscles.

  • Include your arms: Extend your arms in front and to the side of you. Hold this position for 5 seconds, then relax down. As you extend your arms be sure you do it mindfully and carefully. 
  • Include neck rolls: Using your core (abs and back), gently roll your neck from front to back and left to right. There is no need to overextend or hold for periods — the goal is to increase blood flow to the neck muscles.
  • Shoulder circles: While your back is straight, slowly roll your shoulders from front to back, then back to front. Don’t forget to breathe as you do this!
  • Forward bend: If your body allows you, tighten your core and bed as far forward as possible. It might be helpful to have someone hold your wheelchair in place to prevent tipping.

As a bonus stretch in the forward bend, bring your arms behind your back and try to clap your hands. This will give you a deeper back and arm stretch.

More advanced wheelchair yoga includes a seated pigeon, cat-cow, and seated twist. When in doubt, check out videos on YouTube or virtual and local yoga classes.

For more information on mobility assistance, contact Williams Lift today.