Thursday, September 17, 2015

Modified Chair Yoga: Sun Salutations With a Broken Ankle

The first few days after I was home from the hospital recovering from surgery and mending a broken ankle I found myself struggling with my new lack of mobility. Granted, I truly was tired, and rest was certainly in order, but my body ached. Nights were restless as I tried to figure out how to lay without creating pressure points and days weren't much better since I had to keep my foot above my shoulders. And while I did get some relief from the few exercise I was initially advised to do it just wasn't enough for me. I needed my blood moving, my lungs expanding and to do some stretches that would counter the position I was forced to be in most of the day.

Talking a few minutes out of the cast to "clean" up the foot. My husband has proven his love for sure!
So I researched chair yoga...and wheel chair yoga...and researched some more. I bought 3 chair yoga books, read them and found that they weren't exactly specific to immobile clients but instead used the chair as a prop. In other words, most of the poses and sequences were for able bodied people who happened to use a chair for balance or to deepen a pose. So I researched some more and found my best results on...Pinterest.

Since I found it difficult to locate what I needed online I thought why not put together a series of blog posts in the hopes someone else might be helped? And here we are!

Get your stretchy pants on and roll out your mat...we're going to do a true variation of Seated Sun Salutations! (The next post will be another variation of Sun Salutations so stay tuned!!)

Prep work:
  1. Be sure you've discussed your restrictions and limitations with your doctor or physical therapist. I'm neither of these so I cannot advise you what you're able to do or not do. Don't risk getting re-injured!
  2. Listen to your body! If it hurts don't do it. If a pose isn't already in your wheelhouse and you find it challenging then this is not the time to try to learn it. 
  3. Find a chair or stool that you can comfortably use and allows you some range of motion (armrests are limiting). Depending on how much weight you can put on your injured limb you may need to have your seat higher (or lower) to accommodate that need. Pillows or blankets might be helpful and a yoga mat on the seat can help prevent slipping off of your chair. I used a shower chair which has adjustable legs. This allowed me to raise and lower the seat for different poses and at different stages of healing. Many studios use regular metal folding chairs.
  4. You might find it more comfortable to use a block or book under your "good" foot to even things out.
  5. Although sun salutations are meant to be a warm up I would suggest starting your practice with a few minutes in Savasana, or corpse pose, to connect with your practice and then moving into a few minutes deep yogic breathing or Pranayama. Alternating leg lifts and puppy pose are also a nice warm up addition. You can see these exercises demonstrated here on my last blog post. 

Sun Salutations (version 1):

Stating with arms at the sides take a deep breath in and on an exhale place your hands in anjuli mudra (prayer position).

On your next inhale sweep your arms overhead keeping your shoulders down (away from your ears).

On your next exhale grasp your left wrist with your right hand and, lifting evenly through both side of the waist, lean to the right. Try not to collapse your right side. Looking up to the left can help maintain an evenness in your sides.

Inhale back to center.

As you exhale  grab your right wrist with your left hand. Lift through the waist and lean left (feeling the stretch in your right side). Again, try not to allow your left side to collapse.

Inhale back to center.

Exhale and sweep your arms down and then forward to a modified chair pose. The upper body will lean forward as if you are attempting to rise from your seat. Arms remain in line with your ears, neck neutral and eyes on a spot a few feet in front of your feet.

Inhale and cactus your arms creating a small back bend. Cactus arms simply means you move your elbows out to the side and inline with your shoulders. You will probably feel a nice stretch on the front part of your shoulders, your lats and upper back. Chin and chest move slightly forward (don't kink your neck) to help emphasis the back bend.

Exhale arms up overhead and return to your upright seated position and then inhale and stretch up tall from the waist.

Exhale and propeller your arms to the right while also twisting your upper body to the right. If possible, grasp your chair to deepen the twist. Try to keep the body upright without collapsing the right side. Keeping your eyes level and looking over the right should will help maintain the posture.

Inhale back to center, stretching up through the waist.

Exhale and propeller your arms to the left while twisting your upper body to the left. If possible, grasp your chair to deepen the twist. Try to keep the body upright without collapsing the left side. Keeping your eyes level and looking over the left should will help maintain the posture.

Inhale back to center. Exhale arms down. Repeat this sequence 8-10 times.

Final Relaxation: A few minutes of Savasana (corpse pose) is the best way to end your practice. It helps connect you to your practice, aid in recovery, decrease blood pressure and heart rate, increase focus and decrease anxiety. Lay on your back in a neutral, comfortable position with your eyes closed...legs about mat width apart and arms away from the body with the palms facing up. If you can, go through a few minutes of tensing and then releasing the muscles of the body starting with the feet, the calves, the thighs and moving all the way up to the top of the head. Relax your internal organs, your forehead, your jaw, your tongue. Relax your mind. Turn your focus on the space between the eyebrows, feel your breath coming in and out of your nostrils. Relax, relax, relax. Stay here as long as you like.

When it's time to get up move slowly. Start by deepening your breath and then stretch your arms overhead, stretching as if you're just waking up in the morning. Roll to one side into a fetal position and rest here just a moment. and then slowly push yourself up to a seated position. 

Summary photo sequence:

Note: Sun Salutations are meant to flow with the breath. This means that for every inhale and every exhale we are moving to a new position. However, if you find this difficult you may add breaths as necessary. Just try to keep with the flow as best as possible and it will become easier. This is your's not meant to be perfect, it's only meant to connect you to your true Self.

I hope you enjoyed this photo tutorial.


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