Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yoga: Even for the Disabled

From a room filled with cymbidiums given regularly from fellow students, this warm huggable lady from Philadelphia cheerfully, puts her one foot, her only foot, actually half a foot, down and tells me: "My mission is to be as independent as possible. I am stimulated and more flexible in my body and mind, aware, new energy and having more fun out of life and feeling my heartbeat."

What creates this for Betsy? She creates it because as a friend and being a driven, Yoga therapist and a recovered disabled woman I teach Yoga therapy/Viniyoga: ancient wisdom of Classical Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Ayurveda, to facilitate the continuum of self-healing.

I tell her it is Yoga, but so much more. Yoga is all. It is everything, it is a process to unite and is about freedom. Physical, energetic, psycho-emotional, and spiritual healing means the freedom to be simply who we truly are.

Freedom is the word that sums it up.

My joy is having her receive from me. A friend of many years since she took care of me over 20 years ago as a master massage therapist after I nearly died in an auto accident and had to learn to walk again. I decided then to put journalism aside and research body mind therapy and became a yoga therapist.

As Deepak Chopra writes, "Receiving is as necessary as giving. To consciously receive is an expression of the dignity of giving." And Betsy knows how to receive.

A 20-minute class in her chair will include:

1. Breathing smoothly and completely -- the priority.

2. As Betsy puts it: "Stretching me by pulling my arms with your hands and massaging my neck makes me feel so good. The touching is about friendliness, I need that. I require caring and loving. A new flexibility is happening- one of my mind as well."

Betsy is an avid committed student of spiritual psychology and her classes at the University of Santa Monica. (USM is a block from her assisted living home.)

3. Strengthening -- Utilizing a non-electric wheel chair forces the smiling very active white haired darling of center work her cardio and tones her upper body. "I make use of all. All the adapted, assisted poses bring me to life. I feel alive. I have more energy, not stagnant. I feel my heart beat."

Senses are awoken I notice more and more. Appreciating a dark chocolate bar, ok for diabetics, I bring her, then plugging in a Hawaiian floral scent diffuser sweetly transforms the shared room and the cds encourage Betsy to sway to the best rhythms when she:

4. Twisting her spine

5. Rolling her shoulders

6. Turning her neck

7. Pressing down and does pelvic tilts to wake sleeping muscles

8. Bending forward, she leans and reaches out to hold on to a table and breathe fully and deeply then let your headrest down. By me pushing and pulling, the spine gets release and energized I tell her.

9. Now I assist her to circulating her upper body -- the spine. She holds the wheel chair arms turning in one direction a minute and then reversing. This is a noted sequence to bring circulation to the sacrum plus letting energy release and move up the spine.

Twenty minutes is up and the alert, energized Betsy is ready to do her homework, or watch her favorite tennis on TV, and roll herself out to help some of the residents acclimatize. She is the president of the patient's council using her experience of many years as a counselor to serve others. The mother of two children with disabilities, now deceased, Betsy worked for years on programs for the retarded.

"Yoga assists me when I must slip and slide into my wheel chair, toilet, and bed. Using gravity, heights and breathing," said Betsy.

This post was originally published in the Santa Monica Mirror.

1 comment:

Barbara Nemiroff said...

Hi! I'm Barbara, 51. I live in Los Angeles. I have FSH muscular dystrophy (difficult to pronounce and to describe, so here's a link: http://www.mda.org/disease/fshd.html.) I've been told and convinced for years that yoga (and possibly the Alexander Technique and/or the Feldenkrais Method) would be good for me, because, in addition to the MD, I struggle with anxiety, depression and terrible tension headaches. Wow, what a mess, eh?

There are tons of yoga classes near where I live; however, because of the MD-induced limitations, I need more attention that a group-class instructor has time to give, yet I can barely afford group classes, let alone private sessions. Is there such a thing as yoga (or Alexander or Feldenkrais), say, on a sliding scale? I figure that if any such opportunities exist, I live in a city where they could exist.

ANY suggestions that occur to you after reading this would be so appreciated; thank you for reading this!

Sincerely,
Barbara Nemiroff
brn1207@yahoo.com