Archimedes de Leon has been a yoga instructor for 14 years, and recently has been working to modify his classes and techniques for wheelchair users. Based out of San Francisco, de Leon teaches everything from how to meditate, to how to exercise the limbs and how to release stress on an emotional and mental level. With just these few techniques, de Leon hopes to help the wheelchair users that attend his class modify the stretches and poses to work for them, as well as stress the importance and benefits of wheelchair yoga.
It is extremely important for individuals to practice yoga on a daily basis, whether they are an able-body individual or a wheelchair user.
Some benefits of wheelchair yoga include:
• Release of tension and anxiety
• Increased flexibility
• Uplifted mood
• Clarity and focus
With all of the mental and physical health benefits that accompany practicing wheelchair yoga, one would think there would be more individuals participating in these type classes. However, people often are intimidated when it comes to yoga, that’s why de Leon uses modification in his classes, to help break the fear and intimidation factor of practicing yoga.
The key to wheelchair yoga is for each individual to express the given pose at the best of their abilities, while at the same time respecting their own limitations. This is true for any individual practicing yoga. It often takes time and lots of practice to be able to perform the various poses.
If one is bound in one position for a long period of time, the body can become stagnant and stiff, and it will reduce the amount of blood flow through the body. Although wheelchair yoga focuses on the upper half of the body, it still will reduce stress and stiffness. As de Leon says, “The main focus is to feel the flow of the body, because flow is life and stagnation is death.”
Modification is an essential when it comes to wheelchair yoga. It is important that during these classes, each individual remembers to maintain a steady breathing pattern, and that they continue to breathe throughout all the poses and stretches. It is also important for each individual to not stretch to the point that they are experiencing pain, but to only stretch until they are a little uncomfortable. Overall, wheelchair yoga is more than a way to bring good health to the body and mind. It’s a way to peruse personal growth and become a part of something great.
The best way to experience freedom is to get out, live life and don’t be afraid to try something. There is something special about taking what some may see as an inconvenience, and turning it into an advantage, and wheelchair yoga does just that.
Beginners and those who have never tried yoga before are highly encouraged to attend. The class featured in this article took place at the Bay Area Abilities Expo and was lead by Kim Lan Grout, an above-the-knee amputee of 12 years and yoga practitioner for the last 5 years. Plagued with thoughts of all the things she couldn’t do due to her disability, she found liberation in yoga, finally discovering her wealth of peace, physical strength, stamina, and abilities.
To present this class, Kim Lan partnered with two expert co-teachers: Archimedes Hanuman de Leon, co-founder of Integral Living Center and Hanuman Yoga Center, and Sheena Nadeau, a NASM and NESTA certified trainer with 10 years of fitness expertise in posture re-education, injury prevention/rehabilitation, chronic pain, and Barre Fitness. Arch can be found teaching integral living yoga classes in studios around the Bay Area and also has a weekly radio talk show at Radio Valencia in San Francisco. Sheena runs her practice in the Silicon Valley and is also currently pursuing her Masters in Health and Exercise Science at the University of the Pacific.