Yoga therapist speaks about making yoga accessible to everyone

More than 1 billion people today live with some form of disability. Increasing access to education, healthcare, employment, and supportive activities like yoga is crucial for establishing a more equitable world.

In recognition of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which takes place annually on December 3, we’re sharing a short video featuring Jivana Heyman, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT, founder of Accessible Yoga. In the video, Heyman emphasizes that the essence of yoga is accessible—even if it may not seem so at first glance.

“Ableism is an interesting concept that most people don’t think about, which is the idea that there is a particular way a body should be, and that’s better than other bodies,” Heyman explains. “If we get back to the essence of yoga, that essence is already accessible—the idea that yoga can help everyone.” 

Heyman is passionate about expanding the definition of what yoga is and who can practice. Part of this work involves teaching yoga professionals how to cultivate inclusive settings. “Anyone can practice—so it could be someone who has a physical disability, chronic illness, larger body, older people….anyone can do yoga if the teacher knows how to teach to them.”

Instead of focusing exclusively on the physical external appearance of a posture, for example, one might try inquiring into the purpose of a pose and allowing that to guide the movement. In the video, Heyman offers backbends as an example: 

“If the purpose is to get this backward bend opening experience, maybe that can happen for someone even if they’re lying down or standing at the wall or sitting in a chair.”

You can watch the full video, which is featured in Yoga Journal, here.