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How Yoga Can Help Teens with Physical Disabilities

We're big believers in the benefits of yoga for children and teenagers. If we weren’t, we wouldn't be doing what we do. Seeing teens become stronger and more confident as they progress with their yoga practice is rewarding for us as teachers. When it comes to teens with physical disabilities, yoga can be a powerful tool to help them become more comfortable in their bodies. Here's why:

Yoga Is for Every Body

Yoga meets us where we are. Yoga is versatile by its very nature.  It works for every body. We focus on what the body can do and honor what it cannot.  Beyond normal movement,we also work on training the mind and breath. Yoga poses are adaptable for a wide range of physical abilities. We can modify asanas so they can be performed while seated or in a wheelchair; teachers can provide assistance when needed.

Some effective adaptive yoga poses include:

  • Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)

  • Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)

  • Eagle Pose (Garudasana)

  • Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)

  • Hero Pose (Virasana)

  • Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

Each of these poses can be easily modified to meet your students' needs, which makes them a great place to start an accessible yoga practice.  We encourage aspiring teachers to work in person with a trained yoga school or teacher to learn how to adapt these poses to students with special needs.

Yoga Supports Emotional Health

As yoga practitioners, we're very familiar with the ways in which the mind and body are connected. When a teen has a physical disability, it often impacts them emotionally. They might feel depressed or have issues with anxiety. They may suffer from low self-esteem and a lack of confidence. Because yoga is slow and meditative, it can provide calming and regulation for the busy minds of teens. We see students come to our yoga classes feeling stressed and overwhelmed and leave feeling centered and focused.

Breathwork, in particular, offers benefits for anxiety. This is backed by science. Teaching teens with physical disabilities breathing exercises gives them an effective tool they can take with them and practice wherever they are.

Yoga Improves Mobility

Physical disabilities often contribute to problems with balance, flexibility, and mobility. Yoga is a proven way to improve all three. It builds strength and keeps the body nimble. With regular yoga practice, muscles become toned and flexible. Circulation gets a boost, leaving our bodies feeling energized.

While yoga is gentle, it also continually pushes us to always go a little bit further and do a little bit more. In this way, mobility and strength are gradually increased with each session.

Yoga Encourages Connection

Teens with physical disabilities may feel disconnected with their bodies and disconnected from others. Yoga supports re-connecting with both. Because yoga is adaptive and easily modified, it can be done by everyone, restoring confidence and self-esteem. Yoga is particularly powerful for people with disabilities because it cultivates a feeling of being present in our bodies.  Provided movements are slow, gentle and done mindfully, the movements ground and center us. We feel strong and in control of our bodies as we work through each asana. We focus on what our bodies can do, rather than what they can't. It's about ability, not disability. Yoga fosters acceptance and self-love.

Whether yoga is practiced as a community at a yoga studio or in a one-on-one setting, it allows for students to connect with other people. This, too, can provide a boost in confidence for students who struggle to make connections with peers. Feeling supported can be healing for all yoga practitioners, but teenagers in particular thrive in a supportive community.

Learn More About Yoga for Teens with Physical Disabilities

If you feel a calling to work with teens with disabilities in your yoga practice, we support you in your journey. We encourage you to connect with these accessible yoga organizations. Our Yoga 4 Teens training course is a great start to receive  teen yoga certification.


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