When I started researching about adaptive yoga in 2012, I stumbled upon the website of Matthew Sanford. Listening to his story, seeing how he touches his yoga students in the core of their hearts, giving them back hope and grace just made me cry. And while the tears were still running down my cheeks, I knew: I’m gonna do this! I’m gonna be an adaptive yoga teacher!
So I continued researching and I was amazed that there were only a handful of yoga teachers in all of Germany who teach adaptive classes (at the same time there are about 3 Million people living with a disability). Still in shock about that situation, I was so glad that I found one (!) course in Austria where you could learn to teach people with disabilities. So I ended up going to the Austrian Alps, meeting my new amazing teacher, Jivana Heyman.
Now imagine how excited I was when I found out about the 1st Accessible Yoga Conference. I would not only meet Jivana again, learning from his great experience and his gentle and caring spirit, I would also get to know Matthew Sanford who had unknowingly been one of my big inspirations. The fact that I had to go on a 13-hour plane ride didn’t make me hesitate for even a second.
I don’t know what I really expected from the conference, if I wanted to learn more variations of adapted asanas or learn about different ways to address my students. I just know that I immediately felt like coming home (like Sarah already wrote in her blog before). I didn’t count the times the tears came back during these days…
Here are the three main things I learned during the conference:
1. I’m not alone in this.
I realized that there are so many yoga teachers out there who want the same thing as me: making yoga accessible to all the people with different physiological needs that cannot attend regular classes and empowering them to find inner and outer peace with their own individual yoga practice. At the same time I didn’t feel any competition at all. We all connected, we all knew we’re about to redefine the reception of yoga in the western world and we all aimed for this oneness that unites us all – no matter which physical condition we have.
I started teaching adaptive yoga classes one year ago and there were lots of times when I felt alone in this because I thought there was no one to talk to. To meet all these wonderful teachers made me wanna hug the world.
2. Don’t try the hard way when there is also an easier way.
We often think that we just have to try hard enough to be successful eventually. And we often forget that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Sure there are times when we have to move out of our comfort zone; these are moments that make us grow, make us stronger. But we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help! For me that’s a tricky one because all my life I tried to be independent, showing myself and the world that I can do it all by myself – despite my disability. Now that I know I can do it it’s time to be more aware of my energy limits. Utilize your resources but also use balance instead of strength.
3. Be more aware of the inner body of your student.
When teaching adaptive yoga classes you’re always busy finding the right posture, the right props or the right adjustments for your students. So you’re mainly dealing with the outer body – you’d think. What I realized again at the conference was the importance of focusing on the inner body as well. Listen to the stories of your students; help them find their mind-body connection; make them feel whole; make them feel they belong; give them the ability to be happy. Students and teachers are partners on the same journey.
To wrap it all up, the 1st Accessible Yoga Conference comes down to three words for me: Empowerment, Balance and Unity.
I’m already a little sad that I can’t attend the conference next year. But the seeds are still growing. They’re growing inside me and all the other attendees; they’re growing in our students, our families and our friends when we share the insights of the conference with them; and they’re growing as an international network that we’re building, bringing yoga to people with all their beautiful and individual bodies!