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Restoring faith in body, mind and soul

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Adaptive yoga class at Southwest Plaza provides physical and mental benefits

By Deborah Swearingen

In a dimly lit room with soothing music playing in the background, three people stretch, lengthen and breathe, moving their bodies in ways they forgot they could.

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For one hour, the yogis ditch wheelchairs and prosthetics, slowly but surely restoring faith in their bodies with each pose. This is the beauty of adaptive yoga, according to instructor Ashley Curran, who leads the class at Southwest Plaza’s Yoga Joy studio.

“The mind-body relationship is so powerful,” she said.

“ … This is the one place where they don’t have to adapt,” Curran added. “They’re adapting in the world all day long. This is one place where the world is adapting to them, so I think there’s some freedom in that for sure.”

Curran has been teaching adaptive yoga in Denver for a while and wanted to bring it to Littleton, where she lives.

Angie Gaietto of Lakewood has been attending the class for a few weeks and said adaptive yoga helps her a lot. After sitting scrunched in a wheelchair daily, it is nice to spread out on the mat.

“It helps with pain,” she said. “It’s nice to get out of your chair and stretch and move bits … you don’t move very often.”

The physical benefits of the class are certainly there. Among other things, adaptive yoga helps with breathing and pain and stress. However, in the words of Curran’s yoga teacher, yoga is the third most important part of an adaptive class. The community and the sharing of resources can be just as beneficial as the yoga itself, she said.

This is something participant Tammy Hillman of Denver recognized and appreciated, too. For Hillman, the class helps with relaxation and pain, but also provides socialization.

“It really helps with every aspect of everyday life,” she said.

First-timer Doug Houg of Littleton said he struggled a bit to hear the instructions but could still feel the benefits of the class. For Houg, it was helpful to have an instructor helping him modify exercises and move into more challenging poses.

“I could tell the difference with what they were doing and how they were doing it,” he said.

As with any yoga class, each move can be tailored to a person’s capability, but adaptive yoga requires a deeper level of trust. Participants must have faith in the teacher to guide them through the class, help them into poses and provide modifications their body can handle.

“When you have a disability, you’re not sure people are going to understand how you’re able to move,” Hillman said, noting Curran is a great teacher whom she trusts greatly.

Ireland Clouse and Alethea Dawson assisted Curran in her April 26 class so each could provide direct assistance to the three participants. The three instructors provided an encouraging word, soothing massage or extra blanket or bolster when necessary.

Throughout an hour-long class, the shift in energy and confidence is palpable, Clouse said.

“You can tell, and you can feel it,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

Want to go? Yoga Joy Littleton hosts an adaptive yoga class every Thursday from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. To learn more or sign up, visit www.yogajoylittleton.com.