Yoga for Wheelchair Users

Practising yoga with a, or multiple, wheelchair students can be very challenging not only because of the limited physical movement, but also due to the large spectrum of challenges students in wheelchairs experience, from physical to psychological. It is though incredibly important to make sure that everyone is included in the practice.

When I met Rodrigo Souza, a wheelchair user and yoga teacher, I am reminded of that, but also how important it is to teach the person in front of you and not just the poses.

Teaching yoga to wheelchair users is basically teaching chair yoga, but
– It must be approached in a more human way, teaching whoever is in front of you,
– More inclusive to all taking part,
– A place to nurture connection with ourselves and others,
– A meeting place where mutual support and understanding can be found, integral to the management of a condition as much as a visit to the physiotherapist.

Tips for teaching wheelchair users:

  • Get to know your students and their challenges so that you can start the practice where they are.
  • Make the practice of yoga a space of exploration. This can allow to meet their needs on an ongoing basis.
  • Limit the number of students attending the class.
    Rodrigo says it can be challenging to teach a group of students with varying abilities in an inclusive way especially at the beginning of your practice with a group.
  • Nurture a relationship with the students that fosters acceptance and remain open minded to what the students bring to the class. It’s something that will make you a better teacher, a better person and provide fulfilment for what you do.
  • Do not limit yourself with fixed ideas of yoga asana and alignment, create something for your students, where they are.

“I alway learn more than I teach, especially when you see them (wheelchair users) being more confident with themselves, developing self- compassion, self care and that is so beautiful”

Rodrigo Souza, Allihopa yoga

Listen to the podcast episode here:

About Rodrigo Souza
About Rodrigo Souza

Rodrigo Souza (he/him) is an RYT 200 Adaptive & Accessible Yoga teacher with experience in teaching yoga to folks who have gone through Trauma & Disability. 
Rodrigo suffered a spinal cord injury (T3 complete) in 2014 after a fall accident and has been studying and practicing Mindfulness and Adaptive Yoga to help him deal with muscle spasticity, chronic nerve pain, anxiety, and many other secondary conditions that the injury has brought him.
Through direct personal experience with traumatic injury, and chronic pain, and discovering the need to take charge of his recovery to optimize long-term wellbeing, Rodrigo decided to become a Yoga teacher and teach from his own experience, creating Allihopa Accessible & Adaptive Virtual Yoga Studio.
He also runs a non-profit organization called Allihopa Brasil to make yoga more accessible to marginalized groups in Brazil and also teaches newly injured folks in an active rehabilitation non-profit in Sweden.