Representation is important. For a child with a disability like cerebral palsy, seeing adults and other children living with the same condition is powerful, inspiring, and …
A man with cerebral palsy who pushes people in wheelchairs at an airport for a living says incorporating yoga into his life has made a world of difference.
CBS reports that Jeremiah Stanfield works at the Denver International Airport where he helps ensure people who need assistance get to their flights on time. Each day at work, Jeremiah pushes people in wheelchairs to their gate, walking up to five miles or more per day. It’s a physically taxing job for most people, but it can be especially difficult for someone with cerebral palsy.
Jeremiah, however, has taken steps that not only helped him at his job, but also allowed him to find a group he felt he belonged in with unconditional acceptance. The group is called Healing Yoga, a yoga class specifically designed for people with disabilities.
Jeremiah’s caretaker found out about the class and got in contact with Mary Sims, an instructor who prides herself on helping everyone, regardless of their disability, enjoy the benefits that yoga brings.
“There was a big hole. The yoga community tends to be geared towards … able-bodied white females,” Sims told CBS.
Along with people with cerebral palsy, Sims has students with Down’s Syndrome, students in wheelchairs, and some that cannot move their limbs at all. The ultimate goal for the students, according to Sims, is to allow them to “move in their own way.”
Jeremiah said he had low energy before the starting the class and that his equilibrium was off. He indicated that used to lose his balance while walking at work. He now says yoga changed his life.
“It makes me feel like I am the same person, but able to move around and do my job and help others who need help,” Jeremiah told CBS. “It makes me feel great to see people doing yoga.”
Cerebral Palsy and Yoga
As Cerebral Palsy Guidance (CPG) previously reported, the ancient practice of yoga has been proven beneficial to both children and adults with CP, although data is still in its early stage. So far, however, studies have suggested that some of the general benefits of yoga include,
- Better posture
- Healthy weight loss
- Better eating patterns
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Lower blood pressure
Yoga benefits specifically for people with cerebral palsy are similar to the benefits that people can obtain with physical therapy. For instance, yoga helps people with cerebral palsy with muscle tone and flexibility, according to the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD). Yoga also helps to stretch and realign the spine, which in turns helps people walk with less difficulty.
The art of yoga also has profound effects on the mind and on the student’s sense of well-being. Yoga instructors almost always teach students to be mindful, meaning they should focus on both posture and breathing when doing exercises and stretching. This in turn helps to lower stress and anxiety while promoting a healthy sleep pattern.
For children and adults with cerebral palsy who are limited in movement, a form of yoga known as “adapted yoga” allows them to still participate and gain the same benefits of others, but with modifications. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), studies have shown that adapted yoga improves both physical function and quality of life for its participants.
An example of adapted yoga is chair yoga, in which the student learn modified yoga poses while sitting in a chair or wheelchair. In many instance, the instructor will help the student physically with the poses and exercises, but the student is still doing their own work and learning in the process.
Numerous organizations across the country are now offering yoga to people with disabilities. If you need assistance with locating a facility near you or have any general questions about yoga, feel free to contact CPG or refer to our article, Yoga for Cerebral Palsy.