Reach Accessible Yoga: Poses and Practices for Every Body This new book is a much-needed manifesto and guide to making yoga truly accesible for anyone, in any body, at any age, and in any state of health. By Jivana Heyman Photo by Audi Nissen From Accessible Yoga: Poses and Practices for Every Body by Jivana Heyman © 2019 by Jason Heyman. Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. Sun Salutations A Sun Salutation an effective way to warm up your entire body, whether as preparation for more poses or simply to warm yourself up on a cold morning. It’s also a powerful practice on its own that can help you connect with your breath and the rhythmic movements of nature. Sun Salutation can be made more accessible in a number of ways. You can either practice a variation of a traditional Sun Salutation series by adapting the individual positions within it, or you can remove poses or sections of the series that present the greatest challenge. Other ways to adapt the sequence include using props, such as a wall or chair, as well as practicing in bed or lying on a mat. Here are the main benefits of practicing Sun Salutation: Warming up the entire body Linking breath and movement Creating a ritual, a series of movements that you can link together and repeat regularly Connecting to nature Wall Sun Salutation Practicing Sun Salutation at the wall is extremely helpful if you don’t want to get down on the floor or you can’t easily reach the floor with your hands. This can also be useful if you don’t want to put weight on your knees, if you want to reduce the weight on your wrists or shoulders, or if you’re in an airport and don’t want to touch the floor! It’s also useful for pregnant women because it eliminates pressure on the belly. If you don’t have wall space available, or if you want to avoid bending your wrists, the same wall Sun Salutation series that follows can be done using the back or the seat of a chair instead of a wall. But make sure that the chair is very stable, either by placing it against a wall, on top of a yoga mat, or both. This series can be adapted to match whatever version of Sun Salutation you may already be practicing by using the wall in the same way you use the floor. For example, you could replace one of the wall Downward-Facing Dog poses with a wall Plank Pose. Use your creativity, and remember the key element is combining the movements with your breath. To prepare, place your mat perpendicular to a wall, with one of the short edges of the mat touching the wall. Stand facing the wall, slightly farther than arm’s length away, with your feet hip-width apart. Inhale and bring your palms together in front of your chest. Then exhale. Inhale and raise your arms overhead as you look up gently, without straining your neck. Exhale and hinge forward from your hips, placing your palms on the wall at shoulder height into wall Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Inhale and step your right foot forward, bringing your toes up to the wall and bending your right knee. Keep your left leg straight. Press your chest away from the wall and lengthen your spine upward. Look up slightly. Exhale, step your right foot back to be parallel with your left foot, hip-width apart, into wall Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Inhale, raising your torso, and step both feet forward, halfway to the wall; bend your arms slightly. Exhale and engage your arms muscles. Inhale, bend your arms, and press your chest toward the wall as you come up onto your toes. Lift your chin, coming into a slight backbend. Keep your neck long without dropping your head back. Exhale, lower your heels back to the floor, and step both feet back, hinging forward into wall Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Inhale, step your left foot forward and bend your left knee, keeping your right leg straight. Press your chest away from the wall. Lengthen your spine, looking up gently. Exhale, step your left foot back to be parallel with your right foot, hip-width apart, into wall Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Inhale and raise your head. Push off from the wall, keeping your arms lifted overhead. Look up gently. Exhale and lower your arms. Bring your palms together at your chest. Chair Sun Salutation Sun Salutation can also be done as a seated practice, which takes a little more imagination. There are two ways to approach the practice. One is to try to align movements in the chair with the traditional standing Sun Salutation so they could be practiced side by side. Another approach is to be more creative with the movements and focus on moving with the breath, getting as many major muscle groups involved as possible. Generally, try to inhale when you bend back (spinal extension) and exhale when you bend forward (spinal or hip flexion). Sun Salutation is, by definition, a series of flowing movements coordinated with the breath. Use your imagination, and see what type of chair Sun Salutation you can create. The chair can be against a wall for support or on a yoga mat to provide more traction. When practicing in a chair, be careful to keep the bulk of your weight in the chair to avoid falling out of it. For many people, chair Sun Salutation offers a way to continue a much-loved practice in the face of injury or illness. The flow of breath and movement is soothing to the mind and nervous system, and it can help bring us back to the body during times of anxiety or stress. I remember one student with multiple sclerosis who was dealing with extreme fatigue. Some days she had enough energy to practice a standing Sun Salutation, and some days she preferred to sit in a chair. But either way she was able to experience this powerful moving meditation. To begin, come to chair Mountain Pose, feet firmly planted on the floor with your knees over your ankles and your thighs parallel to the floor. (For shorter legs, place a blanket or block under your feet. For longer legs, sit on a folded blanket). Sit toward the front of the chair with your spine long. Exhale and bring your palms together in front of your chest. Inhale, extend your arms out in front, and stretch them up over your head; look up gently. Exhale, lower your hands to your thighs, and hinge forward at your hips, keeping your neck and spine long. Slide your hands down your legs toward your feet. Relax your neck. Inhale and slowly rise up. Take hold of your right thigh and lift it toward your abdomen in a modified lunge. Move your chest forward and look ahead. Exhale and release your leg; return your hands to your knees. Round your back and lower your head into a seated Cat Pose. Inhale, move your chest forward, and look up, coming into a seated Cow Pose. Exhale and round your back into a seated Cat Pose. Inhale and rise up. Take hold of your left thigh and lift it toward your abdomen. Move your chest forward and look ahead. Exhale and release your leg. Lower your hands to your thighs, and hinge forward at your hips, keeping your neck and spine long. Slide your hands down your legs toward your feet and relax your neck. Inhale and place your hands back on your thighs. Lengthen your neck and come up with a long spine. Raise your arms up overhead and look up gently. Exhale and bring your palms together in front of your chest. Bed Sun Salutation The energetic flow of Sun Salutation can be experienced lying in bed or lying on a mat. Use your creativity to explore what movements feel good in your body. Working from this position, gravity affects the body in a different way. Notice how raising your arms in front of you creates a similar experience as raising them over your head in a seated position. The movements in this flow tend to focus on hip and shoulder opening, which can be a great practice if you’re spending a lot of time in bed. This includes people with chronic illness, fatigue, before or after surgery, and so on. Begin by checking your posture in bed; this is a variation of Corpse Pose focusing on comfort and stability. You can begin with both knees bent and your feet on the bed. Exhale and bring your palms together at chest. Inhale as you raise your arms toward the ceiling, then open your arms out to the sides. Exhale and raise your arms back toward the ceiling, then bring your hands back down to your chest. Inhale, take hold of your right leg behind the thigh, and bring your head toward your right knee. Exhale and release your head and leg. Inhale, take hold of your left leg behind the thigh, and raise your head toward your left knee. Exhale and release your head and leg. Inhale, hug both knees in toward your chest, and raise your head. Exhale and release your head and legs. Inhale, and open your arms out to the sides. Exhale and raise your arms back toward the ceiling, then bring your hands back down to your chest. With creativity, Sun Salutation can be practiced and explored at the wall, seated, or in bed—maybe even in other ways. You can practice it sitting on a mat with your legs out in front of you or kneeling. Within the practice, there is so much potential to explore flowing, rhythmic movements. You can even create your own rhythm by putting together a few poses that flow nicely. Preorder your copy today! — Jivana Heyman, founder of Accessible Yoga, views yoga as a basic human right, saying we all deserve to practice it in whatever state we find our body or mind. Accessible Yoga offers a simple, clear, and adaptable practice for all people regardless of ability, health, and body type. Heyman has spent over 20 years sharing yoga with people of all abilities and backgrounds, and in this book, he shares his knowledge by breaking down complex yoga poses, breathing practices, meditation techniques, and yoga teachings into clearly understandable and practical tools we can use every day, regardless of our limitations or challenges.