CURE NATION: Unleash the power of your inner zen with adaptive yoga! Cure Nation writer Chad Waligura experienced the benefits of adapted yoga firsthand recently, and shares his perspective plus ideas on ways to get started below.
On Monday, March 26th, I rolled into my very first adapted yoga class at the Downtown Yoga & Wellness Co-Op in downtown Las Vegas. I’d heard about it a few times in the past but never had a chance to do attend one.
You can imagine how many yoga opportunities there are in the small town in Texas where I live. (Read more about what I usually do in the wild at home here.)
Needless to say, I was pretty happy just to be finding out more about it. What I knew so far was that it’s a relatively new twist on one of the world’s oldest disciplines.
Samantha Okumura was waiting for me inside. She’s one of the founders of the Co-Op and the reason adapted yoga exists in Las Vegas.
At age 19, in Pleasanton, CA, Sam got into yoga after losing her mom to breast cancer when her life felt like it was unravelling. She stepped into a yoga studio one day and never looked back. She found peace in there when she needed it most.
“It gave me a calmness that I desperately needed,” Sam says.
In 2012, after graduating from the University of Colorado, Sam began working at the SCI Recovery Project in Denver as an aid for six months before moving to Freemont, CA, to work for a new movement called Project Walk.
It just so happened that at the same time as she was helping people with disabilities work toward a better, healthier life, she was going through her yoga instructor training. It was inevitable that she would tie the two together someday.Sam began doing one-on-one yoga sessions with some of her clients from Project Walk (free of charge) who were looking for some steady ground in a world that’d been turned upside down just as hers had been. She was glad to be able to give it to them.
Sam Creates Adapted Yoga Classes for Las Vegas Residents and Visitors
In 2016, Sam arrived in Las Vegas, again for Project Walk. She had helped to open the Bay Area Project Walk location in California and came to Nevada to help with some staff turnover, naturally bringing with her the techniques of adapted yoga that she’d learned along the way.
It was around this time that Sam was introduced to Sam Schmidt, a famous race car driver who has paralysis and is also the founder of DRIVEN (an accessible rehab/fitness center which includes a yoga classroom). Sam had a studio and an idea for more programs in downtown Las Vegas near historic Fremont street. The DY&W Co-Op was born and Sam moved into the studio last January.Thanks to Sam, Adapted Yoga is now offered in Las Vegas, and the classes are open to anyone with a disability, to any type of disability.
“Yoga is absolutely for everyone,” Sam says. “I can adapt my yoga to anyone.”
“It’s a little different depending on if it’s a private session or a group class, but I try to use cues that encourage people to feel things in their body and focus on their breathing, on things that are more subtle than the big movements.”
All the classes are free, Sam says. “I don’t want anyone to get turned away because of money. People with disabilities are sometimes left out of things and I don’t want yoga to be one of them.”
Physical Benefits of Adapted Yoga
On being asked about the effects of adapted yoga, Sam says, “I think it’s very beneficial. Absolutely it is. What I want is for people to take the techniques they learn here home with them and use them every day. It’s a lifestyle change.”
Yoga’s physical positions and movements focus on breathing, stretching and body control. Yoga also helps reduce tightness for individuals with high tone (muscle tightness). Yoga movements also can ease shoulder and back pain, a common problem for wheelchair users. Best of all, the physical benefits also convey mental and emotional improvements.
VIDEO: Learn more about Adapted Yoga Benefits
“That’s what yoga does,” Sam says. “There’s a physical stress from living with a disability, and yoga gives a safe place to release emotion stored in the body. It’s a way to relax it. I think it’d be a great program for new patients in the rehabs.”
Today, people are coming to Sam’s yoga classes because anyone can do it. There’s something for everyone, and it’s good for anyone who rolls through the door.
So, is adapted yoga on the rise?
“I hope it is,” Sam replies. “I want it to be. We are reaching people through the general public right now, by word of mouth, but hopefully social media can help spread the news because right now it’s a new thing.”
If you’ve ever wanted to try adapted yoga, make plans during your next trip to Las Vegas to look Sam up at the Downtown Yoga & Wellness Coop.
Find an Adapted Yoga Class Near You
If you are looking for an adaptive yoga class in your community, try these resources:
- The largest adapted yoga program was started by Matt Sanford in Minnesota and is called Mind, Body Solutions. Their website offers a list of adapted yoga instructors in 40 states of the U.S. as well as in other countries
- The National Center on Health Physical Activity and Disability also offers adapted yoga how-to videos for people of all ages and disabilities.
About Downtown Yoga & Wellness Co-Op
We are proud to work together with DRIVEN Neuro Recovery Center and Conquer Paralysis Now to provide therapeutic services to individuals with disabilities. The class schedule listed here is offered to the Las Vegas community and DRIVEN members, ALL levels and abilities welcome but we have indicated which classes are most suitable for each level of ability.
Yoga, meditation, trainings, support groups and educational classes are all regularly available. If you have any questions regarding any of our offerings, want more information on how you can attend a class or if you want to offer classes or groups inside the Co-op please contact us by phone or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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