After her injury, Jodie Kroone was sure that she would never practise yoga again, but through adaptive yoga and instructors who understood her body’s limitations she was able to return to a former love. She shares her experience
When I think about my disability, caused by a spinal cord injury, I tend to split my body in two: the working and not-working. There was so much I thought I couldn’t do because of the physical limitations of being in a wheelchair.
While volunteering at the QASA offices in Gillitts, KwaZulu-Natal, I had the opportunity to meet Dale Guthrie. She is an occupational therapist with a masters degree in neuroscience, a certified yoga and adaptive yoga instructor and the founder of Holism Health. She explained her aim of providing adaptive yoga with a focus on inclusivity so that anyone using a wheelchair, crutch or walker could feel welcome.
Guthrie developed a teacher training course that runs over ten weeks and I was honoured to be invited as her assistant during the seventh week, when she was covering adaptive yoga. When I arrived at the studio in Randburg, Johannesburg, I initially thought I was only assisting in teaching future yoga instructors how to approach a person with a disability. Little did I know how beneficial this would be to my own recovery.
I had said goodbye to yoga because I couldn’t imagine arriving at a yoga class in my wheelchair and expecting the instructor to understand my limits. I feel there’s so much concentration on what you’ve lost post injury, and negative emotions towards your now-different body. But yoga, unlike my other therapies, focuses on the whole being, connecting the mind to the rest of the body to create physical and mental awareness.
Guthrie demonstrated basic adapted poses that could be done while sitting in a wheelchair or on the floor. For example, the warrior pose was introduced and modified to suit my ability as I sat in my chair and stretched my arms out to the sides. I had to focus on my balance or lack thereof, and bring attention to my breathing and posture.
The meaning of yoga is the union of mind and body. The practice of yoga is to connect, join and balance the body. It’s not only focused on the poses, which is what I thought and feared I couldn’t do. I learnt the essence of yoga lies within gaining mastery of your thoughts and bringing attention to your inner body.
This is an advantage for those who feel they are no longer connected to their bodies. It’s a way of unravelling issues and acknowledging difficulties. Gaining control over emotions and working through trauma is important for moving forward, and is often neglected because there’s so much emphasis on the physical.
I didn’t realise how much this yoga experience was going to help me. I had underestimated yoga and its value for a person with a mobility impairment like myself. The opportunity allowed me to feel liberated.
The assumptions I had about yoga were holding me back from realising that I am not defined by my inabilities. Rather, the power lies in trying. It’s wonderful to know that there are people like Guthrie who make it their life’s mission to help those who face physical disabilities.
Journey of Holism Health
Holism Health was founded by Dale Guthrie in 2018 after she trained with Matthew Sanford, founder of nonprofit Mind Body Solutions, in Minnesota in the United States in 2017. She brought his adaptive yoga techniques to South Africa and founded a studio in Blairgowrie, Randburg.
Guthrie became interested in adaptive yoga while travelling through India to gain a deeper understanding of the yoga philosophy. Upon her return, she knew that her medical background gave her an advantage. She realised she could develop yoga into something to enhance the lives of individuals with neurological injuries.
Today her classes are accessible to people recovering from an injury, people with an SCI, stroke, brain damage, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. She offers private yoga sessions and can introduce small groups to reduce costs and offer the service to a greater number of people.
Yoga has many practical benefits, including increased strength, flexibility and balance, better posture, a decrease in pain, increased self-confidence, a stronger mind-body connection, better stress management, improved mood and a deepened sense of connection with others.
If you are interested in learning more about Holism Health or would like to try adaptive yoga, contact Guthrie directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 084 222 1192.