Teaching yin to a paraplegic

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Mrwindow2010
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Teaching yin to a paraplegic

Post by Mrwindow2010 »

I have a question for I am having trouble with. I have a young man who came to my yin class with a friend. He is paralyzed from the waist down. His legs are paralyzed and they are always having spasms. I could not turn him down. He did 90 percent of the class. What worries me is we are supposed to be playing or feeling that edge we talk about between discomfort and pain or injury. After he left I wondered if he might get hurt not realizing or feeling his edge.
He found his feet and did supine lunge, happy baby, forward folds etc. Has anyone taught a student who is paralyzed? Is it safe? Anything I should not do?He enjoyed it so much he wants to bring a friend from his support group who is also paralyzed. Thanks for your responses and feedback in advance.
Bob T
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Bernie
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Post by Bernie »

Hi Bob

I too had a paraplegic student attend a few yin yoga classes in a wheel chair. However, in this case he was quite athletic and could move into and out of his chair with ease. He enjoyed the practice and the meditative aspect of the class, but I did not modify the class to fit him. I basically let him do his thing as he requested of me when he arrived. (So, again we see-everyone is different.)

I am no expert in this area and I suspect neither are you. That is fine: we are yoga teachers not physical therapists or doctors. As long as we don't set unreasonable expectations of the practice or for ourselves, I would welcome the student to explore what this practice might do for him. The caveats still apply: no pain, no pain! But, the fact that he can not feel his legs obviously means he won't know if a pose is too much for him or not through sensations of pain. He will have to come up with a different way to explore his edges.

Perhaps his edges will be mechanically limited: he will sense that he just can't move any further. That is a starting point, but he may be over-stressing his tissues without feeling the normal warning signs of pain. But, philosophically, what does it mean to overstress or even damage a joint if the joint is already damaged or paralysed and there are no feelings? That is something worth having a chat with him about. Does it matter to him?

Or maybe, his philosophy will be to go to a physical limit, and then back off a few degrees, to be safe.

Certainly, for his upper body and spine the normal caveats can apply. Play the edges, become still, hold for time. But, how to modify for his lower body is something he may need to experiment with. I would definitely encourage him to try, with the understanding that he go easy and gently in the beginning and pay attention to what is happening as best he can. How does he feel while in the pose, when coming out and over the next few days?

Like you, I would be interested to hear from other people what their experiences are.

Cheers!
Bernie
Mrwindow2010
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Teaching yin to a paraplegic

Post by Mrwindow2010 »

Bernie,

Thank you for taking the time to get back with me. I know you are busy and it means a lot to me. I have and am studying Yin with one of your former students Michelle Finch from Indiana.

My student is young and athletic. He fell 30 feet on a construction site two years ago. He was able to get up and down on his own. He could do 90 percent of the class. I had to modify my plan when he showed up but it makes me a better teacher. When he is sitting up he keeps his legs straight because of the spasms. I knew he couldn't lunge so we did supine lunge or one legged happy baby and in between spasms his knee bent and with a strap he looked like he had done the pose many times. We twisted and did side flexion sitting up. Sphinx and seal, broken wing, open wing and butterfly were easy for him to get into. I had to help straighten him up or move his legs just twice. We talked before and during class and he was ok with me assisting his legs so class moved on without him sitting up and standing out.
He must have like it or felt something because he messaged me and is bringing another young man from one of his support groups to my class tomorrow night. My wife and I opened our own studio 2 months ago after our students asked us to. We have plenty of room and class with masks with the public and some with no masks if we have enough room for regulars.
I am really glad I met Michelle and have taken her training. I feel Yin is my jam now.
Sincerely,
Bob Tenbarge
Bob T
Bernie
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Post by Bernie »

That is great, Bob. Thanks for sharing this information. Please let us know how it progresses for your student(s). You may be pioneering something important: yin for paraplegic students!
Mrwindow2010
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Teaching yin to a paraplegic

Post by Mrwindow2010 »

Bernie,

Something happened. He must have felt or found something in our Yin Yoga practice. My student Colin who came to class last week brought one of his friends who is also a paraplegic to my Wednesday night class. His name is Gavin and he brought his sister along for support.
After class they stayed for 30 minutes telling me how good it felt to get out of the chair for an hour. The sister tells me she wants to be a Yoga teacher now and asked me where to begin. Stuff that's way better than getting paid to teach!
I can't wait for this Wednesday now! I have been doing research and there is a non profit Mind Body Solutions. The founder became a paraplegic at age 13 diving into a pool. He is a yoga teacher and is offering online training at the end of this month online. I believe I am going to take it to learn from someone who is living with the same disability as my students.
I will write back in a few weeks with progress or if they class continues to grow.
Bob
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Bernie
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Post by Bernie »

That sounds very encouraging and exciting! I look forward to hearing more about Yin Yoga (or even yoga in general) serves your paraplegic students!
claireylane
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Post by claireylane »

Hi Bob,

Your question is very interesting to me, as I have a long-time dedicated yin student who has recently been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.

She has lost a lot of mobility very quickly. She had to stop coming to group classes, and now I work with her 1:1.

This week, she has told me she doesn't think she can get down to the floor any more (although this may come and go).

So we are going to experiment with Chair Yin. There's a tiny bit online about this, and so I have taken this as a starting point.

At our next session, we will try Chair Square (sitting on the chair, one ankle on other knee, lean forward if needed); Chair Twist; Chair Dragon (sit sideways on the chair, one leg normally, one leg back, I guess with the quads on the chair seat, and the toes tucked under if poss); Chair Backbend (sit on chair, reach behind and grab back of chair with hands); and Chair Dangling (sit on chair, hang upper body over legs).

I thought this might be of use to you - even though your student can get on the floor and enjoys being out of the chair, this might give you some extra options.

I feel like some of the principles of yin might be lost doing it in a chair, but to be honest, for her, anything is better than nothing at this point. It is just as much about the me-time, the peace and quiet, as anything else.

Also, I am glad you found the guy from Mind Body Solutions. A friend of mine has taught and/or worked with that group, and she raves about it a lot! I have read the book and it's very interesting.

Good luck!
Claire
Bernie
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Post by Bernie »

Thanks, Claire. Some great ideas. I think you can still make it yin if you follow the basic principles of applying a stress, relaxing to an edge (but not past) and let it linger. Three minutes may be plenty for your student at this point, but as you say, she varies day by day so some days maybe a little longer, some days a little less.

Cheers
Bernie
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