11 Questions with Adrianne
Adrianne Vangool of One Yoga Saskatoon is known as the mother of chair yoga classes and workshops that are specifically designed for people with Parkinson’s Disease, MS, and other movement disorders. A chair and other props are used to assist participants in class. She is passionate about yoga for every body. She is a yoga teacher and physiotherapist. Her classes and workshops are rooted in both traditional teachings and medical research. We couldn't wait to sit down at chat with her.
What is chair yoga?
Chair yoga is yoga…with a chair (cheeky). All aspects of a typical vinyasa class are modified to be done sitting and sometimes standing with the chair as support. We have some people who stay seated the whole time in a wheelchair, and others who are able to get on and off the floor with support from the chair. The class is breath-centred and we incorporate the 8 limbs of yoga in class and in the chair yoga community as a whole. We really are a community. Participants come early and have tea and stay late and share stories of ongoing struggles and successes. We support each other on and off the mat.
How did you develop chair yoga?
I first developed this yoga class for people with Parkinson’s through my work as a physiotherapist. I quickly realized the impact that this class was having beyond the physical. It was a social and emotional support system. Many people who without an illness or chronic condition don't realize the effort it takes to practice simple self-care like dressing yourself, getting groceries, let alone driving or getting a ride to yoga. Many have to coordinate medications to have their full effect when they are in class. The commitment and dedication it takes to attend a yoga class with such consistency is inspiring and shows how important the class is to the participant’s well being.
How do you develop the structure of your class?
I developed the general structure of the chair yoga class through my own yoga trainings from my teachers, clinical experience, and coollaborative research with a professor from the University of Saskatchewan and Oxford University.
Who is chair yoga for?
People with MS, Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes, post-stroke, back pain and arthritis are just a few of the conditions that the participants enter the class with. Anyone with mobility issues preventing them from participating in an all-levels class are welcome.
Who is your workshop for?
The goal of my workshop is to provide teachers and health practitioners the tools to modify their teaching and classes to more effectively GIVE yoga to people with mobility issues. Yoga truly is for every body and the practice of YOGA can be especially medicinal in someone whose body has stopped responding the way they want it to. We have one lady who particpates in our class who has a helper come in and move the majority of her limbs for her. She does what she can assisting with movements of her neck and shoulder and focusing on her breath. She is able to experience YOGA. I mean that is yoga. Teaching this class teaches me so much every time. I am offering this workshop to help other teachers experience that feeling and help so many others in the process.
What can people expect from your workshop?
People can expect to leave with a sample sequence of a safe and effective chair yoga class. They can also expect some theory and lots of practical practice opportunities. We will have a few of our chair yoga participants share their stories and to see firsthand how we modify the class.
How does your understanding of physio influence your approach to teaching yoga?
There is no question my physio influences my teaching in ways that I may not be aware of. With this class specifically, it has allowed me to modify the poses for those with varying conditions so that they can experience a posture in a supported way. It also helped me keep the class safe and adaptable to many different conditions because of my medical background. I hope to share some of these safety guidelines and red flags to be aware of so yoga teachers without a health background know how to be safe and stay in their scope of practice.
I want people to feel uninhibited during their yoga practice.
I want my students to feel empowered during my workshop.
What's one thing you want participants to know before coming to your workshop?
They don’t have to have any medical background. Just a desire to help and serve others.
I don’t suffer from a chronic condition affecting my mobility, so I cannot comment on what it must feel like to experience yoga from that lens. But I can only imagine if my body stopped responding the way I wanted it to and if I lost the ability to move parts of my body, being in a class where I could experience movement again, where I could feel accepted and part of a community, where I could transport my mind to a place where I am whole… how that hour must feel… maybe that’s why it's worth the effort every week.
Upcoming opportunities to learn and practice with Adrianne: