Rehab Insights is a weekly blog written by Burke Rehabilitation professionals to offer practical information for patients, families and the community. Its goal is to educate the reader on relevant topics in rehabilitation, general health and wellness.

Why You Should Try Adaptive Yoga

September 5, 2017

September is National Yoga Awareness Month. If the very word “yoga” makes you think of people sitting in pretzel shapes, you probably assume it’s not an exercise for you.

But the truth is, yoga is practiced and enjoyed by some 36 million Americans, including many who have physical limitations or disabilities.That’s because this ancient mind/body exercise is adaptable to all who wish to attempt it. It can even be done seated in a chair. 

Why should you consider yoga? 
Yoga Journal magazine lists 38 impressive benefits of regular yoga exercise. Here are just a few from various studies:

  • Increased core strength and better balance which result in fewer trips and falls, especially in people over age 65.  (Temple University)
  • Increased overall lung capacity, which gives your body extra oxygen for better blood, brain and physical functioning.  (Ball State)
  • Increased activity in the brain’s left prefrontal cortex, which contributes to happiness and better immune function. (University of Wisconsin)
  • Reduced levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that contributes to digestive problems, migraines, sleep disorders, anxiety and depression. (Mayo Clinic) 

What is adaptive yoga?
Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” meaning “to join” or “to unite.” Many who adopt a regular yoga practice consider it a way to integrate their mind, body, and spirit.

Adaptive yoga classes, as taught at Burke, aim to create this balance. “Often people are imbalanced,” says Alexandra Oudheusden, Director of Therapeutic Recreation. “Yoga shifts attention away from the negative toward strengthening the areas you can.”

Most people can participate in adaptive yoga classes, including those who have had brain injuries, amputation, stroke, cardiac issues or other physical challenges.

The gains from practicing adaptive yoga can be dramatic. One notable example is Greg, who started yoga as an inpatient amputee in 2013, and continued through outpatient therapy twice a week for a year. According to his doctors, yoga helped him heal faster than he should have. He is still practicing yoga, and says he is in the best shape of his entire life. He even plans to race his ”wheels” in the next New York City Marathon.

Another practitioner, Annie, was incapacitated by disease, spending her days in a wheelchair and requiring 24/7 assistance. She began taking adaptive yoga classes in 2009, and has never stopped. Today, she lives independently, and has reversed much of the damage sustained through her disease. She can walk again, and lives independently.

Most people don’t start out expecting such life changing results. It is enough to want to gain more flexibility and balance, or pursue a goal, like being able to ride a bike again, or perhaps be able to pick those flowers in your garden.

Click here to learn more about adaptive yoga at Burke. 

For more information or to register, please call (914) 597-2248 or email

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Burke's Rehab Insights blog is intended to provide general information about rehabilitation and other health care topics. It should not take the place of medical care. Burke staff cannot comment on individual medical cases or give medical advice.

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