We recently visited Hemma: The Home of Yoga and Acupuncture in Victoria B.C. to be led through some adaptive poses and talk about the benefits of yoga for amputees. Our guide for the lesson was Kelly, an experienced instructor passionate about the impact that yoga can have, with her personal focus being softer forms of yoga and meditation. Although the focus was on learning, it proved an eye opening and relaxing experience.
I think anyone with a physical disability can find it intimidating to learn how your body works when trying a new form of exercise. You wonder how you should adapt, whether or not some the equipment will work for you or not, and even if the fitness facility you are working in will be accommodating to your needs. Like anything, going in as a newbie can be a learning curve.
Kelly is such an experienced and confident instructor, and helped blend the technical and meditative sides of our lesson. She mentioned how much strain an amputee would have, the mental strain of maintaining balance and gait, the physical strains on your body, and how well-suited yoga was to help with them. I agreed completely; I like a yoga because it forces you to connect with your body and learn how to become more aware of it.
Here are some simple moves with tips and tricks for yoga as an above-knee amputee. Note: I’m not a physiotherapist or expert, just a fellow adaptee.
- Downward dog is great because it stretches your sound limb and extends your back. When walking it’s easy to tense up and throw off your core as an amputee. For this pose, you can lock your leg before you reach for your toes to feel more secure. (It’s nice not feeling like your leg will buckle on you). Or if you’re confident you can leave your leg unlocked.
- Another easy move is to lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground and arms extended wide. Keep your hips to the floor and try moving your knees from one side to the other, tilting your head in the opposite direction. This stretches your hips and releases some tension in your back, especially the sides.
- Again on the floor, I laid with a pillow under me, along my spine, and a support under my head. This really opened up my chest and let me breathe easier. A good trick to remember when your hips and ribs are feeling off.
- Best tip of the day and so, so easy: Find a wall near and push your butt against it with legs up in the air. Every day, you are slamming your foot on the ground, putting a lot of pressure and energy onto it. Basically, think of this exercise as lifting your legs in the air to drain the potential swelling of the day. You will stretch out your knee, hip and sound leg and increase blood circulation overall.
The takeaway lesson was not to be afraid to modify. Hemma studio was amazing in that they have blankets, cork blocks, cushions and mats to help support you so you gain equilibrium. Kelly said that she often has people modify exercises in classes she teaches, and that amputation should be no different.
One thing about modding exercises as an amputee is doing it so your body is equal! I know how easy it is to just rely more heavily on your sound limb so you can do “the thing” everyone else is doing. But it can totally throw of your system. What to look for: Are both your hips level? I used a cushion in this particular instance because my prosthetic knee reaches lower than my sound knee when kneeling. The cushion on my prosthetic helped raise my hip so I was more equal overall.
We're really looking forward to doing more yoga, and more adaptive activities to see what's the same, and what's different. We want to give a huge thank you to Hemma the Home of Yoga and Acupuncture for opening its doors to us and sharing this experience. Kelly was an amazing guide through this.
You can check out their studio and classes on their website: www.hemma.ca