Exercise is an important aspect of health that benefits one’s physical and mental fitness. The key to exercising effectively is simply being active. However, people with limited physical abilities may find it difficult to find a mode of exercise that is possible to practice actively. In order to create a mode of physical exercise and emotional creativity for people with mixed abilities, Karen Peterson, a long-time Miami choreographer, created a dance troupe of 12 members in 1990. Karen Peterson and Dancers has traveled and performed in over 20 countries since its existence, and includes dancers who use wheelchairs. Through inclusion and integration of those with limited physical abilities, more opportunities for active exercise are created.
Close your eyes (not while reading my article, of course!), imagine you are in a quiet room with soft music streaming, you are focused on your breathing (instead of your endless to-do list) and an instructor is calmly directing you on where to place your hands and feet. You are in a yoga class and I promise you will feel better after. (I don’t make promises I can’t keep!)
Practicing yoga has many benefits and can improve flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance. For me, yoga helps to reduce anxiety and stress and even helps me sleep better. Yoga is beneficial for everyone because of the physical postures and focus on breathing. Each pose can be modified or adapted to meet the needs of the student so regardless of ability level yoga is for everyone. Yoga postures can be performed while seated in a chair or wheelchair and may be performed with assistance from the instructor as needed. In a yoga class, students usually watch an instructor to learn how to properly complete each position. For students with low vision or who are blind an instructor can easily incorporate more spoken instructions and feedback on what to change to accurately complete each yoga pose.
Yoga is often a slow, deliberate and meditative process, so it helps you to slow down and increases attention and focus. For individuals on the autism spectrum and with ADHD or anxiety this can be especially helpful with concentration and following directions. Practicing yoga is empowering because it is so individualized and inclusive as the differing abilities and limits of each student are accepted and welcomed. Yoga starts wherever you are. Every yoga pose can be adapted to meet your current level of functioning. With regular practice you will meet your goals, whether it’s to have the breathing and stamina needed to be able to lift your head or to stand on your head.
Yoga is offered in many gyms, health clubs and recreation centers. There are adapted yoga classes where yoga is practiced by individuals with disabilities as well as inclusive classes where there are students with and without a disability. No two people (or yogis) are the same! Yoga is one of the most complete and inclusive forms of exercise and one of the best things you can do for your body, mind and spirit.
Sports and exercise are not activities that can only be enjoyed by athletes. They are also activities that help those with physical health impairments and conditions to become active and healthy. Memorial Healthcare System is striving to promote and spread this message by creating their own Adaptive Sports Program to provide recreational and athletic experiences for those with disabilities. Their program includes strength & conditioning classes, as well as speed & agility classes in conjunction with baseball & softball training to provide this opportunity for those who qualify. The message behind this program supports the idea that exercise and sports are activities that everyone can participate in
By: Rachel Goldstein
When there is ‘so much to do and so little time’ for many of us making time for exercise is often hard to do. When you also have anxiety or depression, exercise is often the last thing you feel like doing. However, physical activity and exercise can make a big difference in alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression and leave you feeling a lot better. Engaging in regular exercise can help ease stress, anxiety and depression due to the increased release of chemicals in your body that make you feel good and the increase in body temperature that may result in a calming effect and reduction in muscle tension. Exercise and physical activity have been found to be very effective at improving the ability to sleep, reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. Exercising and physical activity also have psychological benefits as they can give you a chance to be in a social setting, can boost your self-confidence and can help to distract your worrying mind.
To help alleviate symptoms of anxiety or depression you don’t have to spend a lot of money or join a gym or sign up for a structured aerobics class. There are plenty of ways to add physical activity throughout your busy schedule that will help to improve mood and overall well-being. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away when running errands to fit in a short walk or if you live close enough to your job, consider biking to work instead of driving. Determine what type of physical activity you would actually enjoy and when and where works best for you so that you’re more likely to follow through.
Stress is an inevitable part of life and I have found that yoga works best to help me manage stress. After taking a yoga class I immediately feel more energized and I am in a better mood. The combination of exercise and meditation works wonders to help me focus on the present and takes my mind off any worries I may have. I would encourage anyone who has anxiety or depression or who needs help managing stress to try yoga. No matter what you decide, any physical activity that gets you up and moving can help improve your mood and the symptoms of anxiety and depression and should be incorporated as part of any treatment plan.