Beyond the Mat: How Adaptive Yoga Welcomes Every Body

Adaptive yoga is a style of yoga that invites everyone to join no matter what their abilities are, whether they have a physical or mental disability. Adaptive yoga is accessible to everyone and multiple variations are taught, allowing the poses to be modified to specific needs and abilities.

Yoga, since the beginning of its time, has been made to be shared and therefore it seems only right to modify these moves and make them more accessible to everyone. Adaptive yoga classes all tend to be individualised and are often taught in small groups that might share the same requirements. Additionally, they move more slowly than the majority of traditional classes, but don’t let this deceive you! You’ll still work up a sweat.

Having taught this style of yoga for twenty-five years, JoAnn Lyons believes that all classes should be taught as adaptive since each of us should modify the poses to suit our own needs.

“Everybody is different, and every yoga practice is personal,” says the senior instructor. She does think the title makes a useful distinction, though, so that people of all abilities can know that there is a class style that works for them.

Who is Adaptive Yoga For?

Adaptive yoga is an opportunity for everyone and is an umbrella term to include those with specific conditions. For example, there is aclass for individuals with multiple sclerosis, in wheelchairs and older adults. There is no one excluded from the world and the beauty of yoga.

If you have a specific injury, condition, or ability level that requires some degree of modification or support in a traditional yoga class, you might be better off joining an adaptive class with others like yourself. This way, there are no causes for concern and no risk of accidentally injuring oneself while trying to bend and twist into some poses.

Many teachers, like Sanford, offer specialised classes, like “Yoga for Ambulatory Individuals,” which are classes for people who can walk but live with impaired mobility or balance issues. These classes are in addition to general adaptive yoga classes for all bodies and abilities.

There are also classes available that are reserved for individuals with disabilities like spina bifida or cerebral palsy, as well as those who are completely or partially paralysed.

It is stated that people with chronic illnesses and disabilities are the target audience for Lyons’ classes. She started instructing adaptive yoga in 1996 at what is now Ability Now Bay Area, formerly the Cerebral Palsy Centre, and she continues to do so.

Is Adaptive Yoga as Good as Traditional Yoga?

The answer is and always will be, YES! Whether practicing traditional yoga or adaptive yoga, the path to empowerment is the same. Everyone has a unique journey; some call it a spiritual one, but mine has taught me self-compassion and patience.

Mirinda McCarthy, the founder of Adaptive Yoga, has been a strong founder and inspiration to those who want to do yoga but have never had the confidence or the tools to try it. Her story is truly heartwarming and has prompted a lot of people to start their journey.

Mirinda has had rheumatoid arthritis since the age of two and has lived through 10 joint replacement surgeries, but that didn’t stop her if anything encouraged her to find something to help her through rehabilitation and thus found adaptive yoga, which has encouraged a happy and healthy relationship with her mind, body and soul.

Yoga for some people is about crafting a new healing, accepting and loving the narrative around their bodies and some people love it because it keeps you connected spiritually, aligning your chakras and staying present in today’s crazy world. These feelings and opportunities should be accessible to everyone and that’s the true beauty of adaptive yoga.

No matter how uncomfortable the body feels, adaptive yoga teaches you how to re-inhabit it with more ease and harmony. The real key to living a fuller, more contented life is to learn to live with your body instead of against it.

Benefits of Adaptive Yoga

In addition to the general advantages that yoga offers to all practitioners, there are a few main advantages that are particularly pertinent to people who struggle with age-related issues, chronic illnesses, physical disabilities, or injuries.

Improved Quality of Life

A 2017 study with a diverse range of participants and abilities found a significant improvement in quality of life as measured by mental and social well-being.

Helps with Parkinson’s Disease

According to one study, adaptive yoga helped Parkinson’s disease patients move more physically and experience less anxiety and depression.

Self Compassion

Although many disabilities manifest as physical limitations, their psychological effects can sometimes be the most severe. Yoga may lessen the psychological effects of spinal cord injuries, including self-compassion, according to a small, six-week study.

Sense of Community

For more than ten years, cerebral palsy (CP) sufferers Melissa Crisp-Cooper and Owen Cooper have been attending adaptive yoga classes. They adore how yoga’s bilateral stretching relieves the tight, spastic muscles that result from cerebral palsy. Although they were grateful for the ability to practise yoga at home during the pandemic’s peak, they are happy that in-person classes are back in session because they have missed the group dynamic.

Improved Daily Function

One study found that participating in adapted yoga improved walking speed and balance among people with brain injuries and another found that adaptive yoga classes improved balance among those living with brain injuries.

Where Can I Find an Adaptive Yoga Class?

Typically, adaptive yoga is provided in live environments as well as online so you do not have to worry about potentially having to travel long distances to reap all the benefits. I would recommend looking at gyms or websites that specialise in adaptive yoga classes and enquiring, giving details about any personalised requirements you would need and going from there.

The best part about it being online is that you could pick them based on their reputation or timing. The world is your oyster when it comes to adaptive yoga classes.

To make the process easier if you don’t know where to start, I have some adaptive yoga classes here:

  1. Mind Body Solutions (MBS) by Matthew Sanford
  2. Adaptive Yoga Live, by Miranda McCarthy
  3. Accessible Yoga Classes with Jivana Heyman
  4. Yoga Moves MS
  5. Piedmont Yoga Community

Tips for Getting Started with Adaptive Yoga

When attending classes, new students should arrive early to speak with the teacher about their needs and concerns. Make sure you’re dressing in comfortable, breathable clothes, whether that’s a tracksuit sale for you or a gym set. Lyons stresses the significance of being truthful about your health conditions and disabilities because there are many different ways that a disability can manifest.

“Merely stating that someone has multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy does not provide the teacher with an adequate understanding of what is actually occurring in that person’s body,” she clarifies. The teacher would benefit from having more knowledge.

Owen Cooper advises new students to “trust in their own abilities and limits” and recognise that “those will change every day,” in addition to putting their trust in the instructor.

Lyons reminds new students to be patient with the process and reassures them that they might need to try several classes before finding the right one. When selecting the ideal class, Sanford highlights the importance of establishing a rapport with the instructor.

Yoga practitioners that are adaptable Newer students are reminded by Crisp-Cooper and Cooper that they never commit to a specific teacher or class. Just try another one if they try one and it doesn’t feel right.

Most importantly, the couple wants all new students to remember to just have fun! Their adaptive yoga teacher officiated their wedding.


Forget limitations; imagine your vibrant red dress flowing as you embark on an empowering journey with adaptive yoga. This practice welcomes everybody and every ability, offering modifications that celebrate your uniqueness.

Whether you navigate chronic conditions or physical challenges or simply seek a gentler approach, adaptive yoga creates a supportive community where self-compassion blossoms. Studies show benefits like improved quality of life, reduced anxiety, and deeper body connection.

Ready to start? Online classes offer flexibility, from renowned instructors to community-based options. Remember, communication is key. Share your needs with your teacher and trust your own pace.

Most importantly, let go of expectations and embrace the joy of movement. Your red dress might just become a symbol of inner strength and newfound freedom, all thanks to the transformative power of adaptive yoga. So, take a deep breath and step onto your mat. The world of possibilities awaits.





Beyond the Mat: How Adaptive Yoga Welcomes Every Body