Teaching Adaptive Yoga

Teaching Adaptive Yoga doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it is actually the simplest and most beautiful form of yoga you can teach. I’ll walk you through common questions in this upcoming series to take the guess work out. When we understand that the root of Yoga is union, and let go of the need for perfect postures, it really is magic.

I get asked all the time how I teach yoga to people who are living with multiple disabilities. Some of my students live with paralysis, dementia, Parkinson’s, and end of life illness.


I offer them a space to find themselves perfect as they are in that moment. I offer them space to be themselves and to embrace their wholeness.

Leading a sequence of postures is the least importance focus I have.

This is my heart and my whole world. I want to show others the possibility of what teaching adaptive yoga can bring to your life.

In the coming weeks, I will be opening up my private YouTube Q & A sessions to share more of the work and I do and why. Even if you don’t teach or practice yoga, perhaps the lessons within will open your heart as to how you might be able to serve others.

This is just the start of some good things! Stay tuned.

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With over sixteen years experience, Stacie Wyatt is a E-500 hour Registered Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance, Certified Brain Injury Specialist, Certified Trauma Informed Coach, Life Wellness Coach, Senior YogaFit Instructor, Mind/Body Personal trainer, Stress Reduction and Meditation Instructor, Pilates Instructor, and Barre Instructor.

The Guide to Adaptive Yoga

Four Pillars to Adaptive Yoga

I knew early on that teaching yoga to unique populations was what my purpose was. I was certain that I wanted to bring yoga to people who would otherwise not be able to easily access it. Years ago I began by peddling my offerings into rehab centers and places elderly lived. I taught for many years with the National MS society. My adaptive yoga journey started at a local organization that offers adaptive sports to adults with varying disabilities. Teaching to this population, I found was definitely at home and found pure joy in the work.

I also have taught and continue to teach “typical” people in my studio and in the community. It fills a different place in my heart. I love bringing some of my special experiences with my other students into the space of a regular ol’ yoga class. When I was actively sharing yoga in the hospice world, I had many lessons that were gifted to me from those who were dying and I embedded them into my yoga classes.

Why The Pillars?

For nearly two decades I have logged and stored away many of those special experiences and continue to pull from them often. I also have grown tremendously as a yoga teacher. In that time, I developed techniques that have success when sharing yoga with different populations. I have crafted this technique into a method I call the Four Pillars to Adaptive Yoga. Really, these pillars should be in every yoga class, but a definite must for the adaptive yoga world.

Every community across the globe has people with disabilities who need adaptive yoga and mindfulness. They need connection, movement, breath and gratitude. It is my mission that as many people as possible will have access to yoga, but I need your help!

If you are a yoga teacher, a mental health worker, an occupational therapist, a counselor, a certified nurse’s aid, or a compassionate person YOU can do this!

The Guide to Adaptive Yoga

I created a guide to get you started and I have TONS of resources and experiences if it sparks something in you that wants more. I will walk you through how to market yourself, how to invoice, how to grow your offerings and how to bring YOU into your community to serve others.

Let’s do this! It starts here!

About Stacie

With over sixteen years experience, Stacie Wyatt is an experienced 500 hour Registered Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance, Certified Brain Injury Specialist, Certified Trauma Informed Coach, Life Wellness Coach, Senior YogaFit Instructor, Mind/Body Personal trainer, Stress Reduction and Meditation Instructor, Pilates Instructor, and Barre Instructor. Stacie brings her personal life experience of raising a daughter with a disability and over 12 years working in special education to her everyday Yoga classes.

What the Eyes See

Eyes that look are common; eyes that see are rare.

He sits on the end of the sofa with a warm blanket and foam boots to keep his ankles from hitting each other as his body uncontrollably shakes.

He watches every move I make. He cannot speak or move voluntarily.

He attempts to smile at my horrible jokes. I am certain on my bad hair days when I acknowledge that I just didn’t have time to deal with my hair, he is laughing.

While I teach the adaptive yoga class to the other residents, he watches every move I make.

When I hold his hand and we talk about how horrible the football season has been or the beautiful changing weather, his eyes stare into mine.

There is an inaudible language that is spoken. His eyes see and express so much.

This week as we were chatting, I mentioned that I believe the eyes see into the true spirit or a person.

Just then something amazing happened. Watch this…

Think Yoga is all about asana (postures) and touching your toes?

Was That Considered Yoga?

A year or so ago I reacted to the frustration I feel at times for the yoga culture we have seemed to create in the western world. I opened my mouth in a fit of grievance and spoke truthfully about this publicly. Some heard it with curiosity and grace, while others were dismayed at my seemingly arrogant stance on this.

In our western yoga culture there seem to be so much focus on the physical body, and it’s honestly so disheartening, especially since Yoga teacher trainings capture the philosophy and other aspects of Yoga over the course of the 200 or 300 hours of learning. At least they should.

Let me be clear, of course the sensations we feel while putting our body into a certain shape can be a stepping stone for awareness and so much more, BUT it is also so overly misguided and misunderstood that I find myself saddened that so many people are not having the access to the deep philosophy and way of being that the practice offers.

I am in a variety of social media forums for Yoga teachers and every single day there are questions on how to build a sequence, or how to create a “peak pose”, or how to teach an arm balance that is probably obtainable to 3% of the population. Why??

Let’s back up to simply defining Yoga.

The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’, meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’. As per Yogic scriptures the practice of Yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with that of the Universal Consciousness, indicating a perfect harmony between the mind and body.

Yoga is also a balanced state of the body and mind. Yoga is a balanced state of emotions. Yoga is a balanced state of thoughts and intellect. Yoga is a balanced state of behavior.

That is not touching your toes or being on the floor in contorted positions or standing on one leg.

Let me share with you the Yoga students I got to share Yoga with today and how they got to practice.

I entered into an assisted living setting to find a group of woman sitting in a living room. I scanned the area for what I was soon facing and “read the room” as we are trained to do.

Here is where the essence of Yoga was in this moment–I “united” with a woman suffering from confusing dementia and lack of word recall. She was agitated, angry, and utterly confused. I was able to get her to sit back down as I gently held her hands. I moved her arms in circles and gently pulled her into a soft forward bend. I rubbed her feet with lavender as I responded to every single irrational statement that she made that was her reality. I asked her questions about the incoherent story she was living and sharing with me. I heard her.

Within a few moments of receiving the lavender foot rub, her language became less erratic and she relaxed into her easy chair.

Was that considered Yoga? Was she experiencing a balanced state of emotions? Absolutely.

A lovely woman who was sitting across the room in a catatonic state, quietly asked for some of the “stuff that smelled good.”. A few minutes of a loving hand massage and she too softened into herself.

Was that considered Yoga? Was she experiencing a balanced state of thought? Absolutely.

As a Yoga teacher of 16+ years I am still astounded that our world doesn’t see that moments like this IS Yoga. It IS human connection. It IS a desire to help people experience balance of mind and emotions. It IS a desperate attempt to bring unity to their spirits.

I could care less about a sequence or a peak pose.

Perhaps that is why it has been impossible to find a Yoga teacher willing to get out of their physically focused way and truly share the entire essence Yoga, from the heart. This is about the greater good and a selfless offering that changes the lives of those in their final chapter of life. Some perhaps, in their final pages.

If I sound bitter and frustrated, I am. All I can do with this is walk it off, know that I served well today and the right person will come into my life to share this with.

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Memories and Mood

Nothing brings to life again a forgotten memory like fragrance.

– C Poindexter.

Did you know that you can use aromatherapy to improve your mood and remind you of memories??

Scent plays a huge role in how we think and feel, AND triggers memories. Our olfactory system (sense of smell) has a direct connection to the part of the brain (the amygdala) which acts as our emotional processing center and a direct link to memories. Don’t we all have a grandmother or aunt who had a certain “smell” that when we smell it we transport in time? This is why when you smell certain things you may experience a particular memory. Pretty interesting, right?

My little granddaughter Sawyer recently took home a box of crystals from my house and exclaimed to her daddy the other day “oh no, these don’t smell like maymay anymore”. I’ve been wearing the same blend of oils every time I am around her since the day she was born. Love that she associates my “smell” already. I have my grandmothers old medicine cabinet in my home and when I open it I instantly go back to being a little girl and getting treated with iodine and a bandage. Since I live in the house I grew up in, every once in a while when I open the coat closet I get a whiff of my mom and her career as a hairdresser and remember her coming home tired after giving perms all day and hang up her coat. It is such a crazy thing that our limbic brain holds onto memories that are associated with smell. Definitely check out this post about the brain…it is fascinating!

In my work with people with dementia and other neurological conditions, I use aromatherapy all the time. I love to share a blend of citrus oils with a touch of vanilla and tell a story that we are all young kids and the ice cream truck comes and on the side of the truck is something that smells just like that. I put a few drops in each of their hands and they smell it while I tell the story. Sure enough within a few seconds, someone will say “creamsicle” or “orange sherbet”. Sadly though not all memories are good. I usually spray the area that I will be teaching to gift an aromatherapy boost before the class. One day I sprayed a blend of orange, cinnamon, and clove. To me it smells like fall and the holidays, but to one of my students the clove triggered a horrible childhood memory and he was unable to stay in the class. I felt terrible and realized that not all smells are going to be welcomed. Lesson for me learned. Now I stick with pretty benign smells like citrus, lavenders and trees.

Pretty amazing that now that that we know this, we can use certain oils to uplift our mood or even relieve feelings of stress or worry and also create or trigger memories.

What is your go to mood oil? My all-time favorite is Wild Orange! It’s a beautiful “balancing” oil, meaning that depending on what are are feeling it can either lift us up or calm us down. It is a very unique citrus oil that has some pretty amazing benefits. I love it!!!! Heavenly! The blend that I have been wearing since my granddaughter was born that she now associates with me is orange, lavender, patchouli, rose and sandalwood.

If you are not sure but would like to try I’m happy to send you a sample to help your mood and memories!

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Watch Your Thoughts

This week I have been teaching my Yoga classes around this quote—

Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

Bring your hands to your heart center (thought), open your hands to a flower mudra (that becomes the words), raise your hands above head (that becomes the actions), opens your arms wide (that becomes the habits), raise your arms above head (that becomes character), lower your hands back to heart center (that becomes destiny) … and it all returns to the thought (seed).

Try that with a mindful breath a few times. And again. Breathe and move with the intent that a thought becomes a word, a word becomes an action, an action becomes a habit, a habit becomes your character, your character becomes your destiny.

For the students with paralysis they can either move their working side or I can ask to move their body with them. The students with dementia enjoy the slow movements and repetition. By the end of the class many can repeat the quote. One of the students in the group who lives with a traumatic brain injury smiled and said, “I like that. I like how that feels”.

That is Yoga.

We also talked about within all of the “doing” how do we want to BE ? (Seed/thought), then our words and actions follow. Taking Yoga into life is my passion.

Today in my doing, I am choosing to BE present.

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