Yoga After Spinal Cord Injury

On the request of a friend, I assembled a list of resources for those who would like to practice yoga after a spinal cord injury.

Practicing yoga after a spinal cord injury is possible on multiple levels. Although there are few existing resources targeted to guide a yoga practice after this type of injury, some information is available. Below is a collection what I have found so far. ~ Ariele

Books

Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence by Matthew W. Sanford

This book is amazing.

Matthew Sanford is both a paraplegic (since age 13) and a yoga instructor in Minneapolis who teaches adaptive yoga classes. For more information, see matthewsanford.com or mindbodysolutions.org. Please see the videos on his website for an idea of what group adaptive yoga classes look like.

Here’s what one of his students has to say about being in Matthew’s yoga classes.

DVDs

-> Because injuries are each unique, know that you may not be able to complete every movement / breath / etc in any single DVD workout. Do what you can do, safely, and with assistance when needed. DVDs do not replace personalized instruction from a trained, competent, and medically savvy yoga professional.

**I have not personally reviewed these at this time.

A number of Chair Yoga DVDs are available, and many can be previewed on YouTube to decide which is best for you. Those with incomplete injuries and some movement of the legs may benefit from Lakshmi’s Chair Yoga. Lakshmi is trained in the Kripalu tradition.

A spinal cord injury forum contributor with a C5/C6 incomplete injury suggests Kundalini Yoga to Detox and Destress with Maya Fiennes. All movements are performed on the back, on all fours, or seated. Kundalini yoga can be a workout, and the reviews on Amazon.com often state that this DVD is challenging. Of course, many who live with spinal cord injury want exactly that, so again, review to see if this DVD will work for you.

The internet has made living with a spinal cord injury much less isolating than it might once have been. Youtube is one place to share your yoga practice as someone living with an SCI. Here’s an example.

Research

Very little research exists on this topic. A journal article search for [“spinal cord injury” + yoga] that searches multiple databases produced only one result, a case report (generally the lowest level of evidence because it only reviews the therapy of one or a handful of individuals). To read this case study, please click on “Integrating Iyengar Yoga into Rehab for Spinal Cord Injury“.

Finding Yoga Teachers

Few yoga instructors have the medical background to address a hatha (physical) practice with students with a major injury or limitation. The best resource for therapeutically oriented yoga teachers is the International Association of Yoga Therapists. Note that a yoga therapist is far different than a physical therapist and has an entirely different educational background.

Sacred Source Yoga yoga teacher, Ariele, is trained both as a physical therapist (Doctor of Physical Therapy) and as a yoga instructor. She has worked in esteemed rehabilitation settings with patients with a variety of spinal injuries and is available for private lessons for those with spinal cord injury. Please click here to email her. (lessons available via Skype or webcam).
Remember: your spinal cord injury and your physical and mental adaptation to it is unique to you. The physical, including most of the pranayama/breath, exercises should only be attempted after you are medically stable, and ideally under the supervision of a trained health care or yoga therapy professional. You can benefit from the mind-body aspect of yoga at any point during your recovery, again ideally with a trained professional.

Beware that although some yogis and some yoga traditions claim they can heal and reverse spinal cord injury, the Western medical model suggests that most healing comes in the first months to year post-injury, and is aided by specific intensive rehabilitation, and that most SCIs have some permanent residue because of the reduced regenerative capacity of that part of our body’s anatomy and physiology. Please do not attempt to replace rehabilitation with yoga.

Have friends who could benefit from this resource list on yoga for Spinal Cord Injuries? Tweet about it. 

What would you add to this resource list? Please post in the comments below!

Please send me any questions and suggestions.

love and light! ~ariele

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