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How to do yoga with a prosthetic arm

This is your go-to guide on how to do yoga with a prosthetic arm. We'll touch on the following:

  1. Do you need a prosthetic arm to do yoga?

  2. What prosthetic arms and tools are available to assist with yoga?

  3. Can you do yoga with a myoelectric prosthetic arm?

  4. What does it feel like to do yoga with a prosthetic arm?

  5. Koalaa’s approach to doing yoga with a prosthetic arm

  6. User stories of yoga with a prosthetic arm - Victoria Chiantella

How to do yoga with a prosthetic arm

Yoga, an ancient practice with origins tracing back thousands of years, is a profound journey of self-discovery and holistic well-being. While the concept of practising yoga with a prosthetic arm might initially seem hard to grasp, it opens doors to empowerment, self-acceptance, and physical awareness. This article delves into the transformative experience of engaging in yoga with a prosthetic arm, exploring the physical and mental dimensions of this journey!

 

Do you need a prosthetic arm to do yoga?


In short, no! Many people with limb differences are able to do yoga routines using their hands or arms depending on what type of limb difference they have.


A prosthetic arm is an assistive tool which can provide support and assistance for individuals with upper limb differences who decide they need extra support with yoga poses due to balance, stability and posture.


The choice to use a prosthetic arm or assistive tools for yoga positions ultimately depends on the individual's comfort, needs, and preferences. The goal is to empower everyone, regardless of their physical differences, to engage in activities and sports!

 

How can a prosthetic arm assist someone with a limb difference doing yoga?


Yoga with a prosthetic arm



A prosthetic arm can be a valuable tool to assist someone with a limb difference in practicing yoga.


Prosthetic arms can provide support and enhance the yoga experience in various ways to those who choose to use one.


Prosthetic arms can offer additional stability and balance during yoga poses. For example, in standing poses like tree pose or warrior II, a prosthetic arm can help some people with maintaining balance by providing a point of contact or counterbalance.





Weight Distribution:


Prosthetic arms can assist in distributing body weight more evenly in poses that involve leaning or supporting weight on the arms, such as plank, downward dog or chaturanga. This can help reduce strain on other parts of the body.


Support in Transitions:


Prosthetic arms can be used to provide support during transitions between poses. For instance, they can assist in getting up from the floor or transitioning between seated and standing poses.


Prop Use:


Prosthetic arms can function similarly to yoga props like blocks or straps. They can be used to modify poses, extend reach, or provide support.


Enhanced Grip:


Some prosthetic arms have features that allow for a secure grip. This can be beneficial in poses that involve holding onto a yoga mat or props, as it helps with stability and alignment.


Custom Modifications:


Prosthetic arms can be customised to better suit an individual's yoga practice. Prosthetists can make adjustments or design features specific to yoga needs such as a curved platform for rocking back and forth.


It’s important to note that not everyone who has a limb difference would benefit from or choose to use a prosthetic arm and it is solely based on the individual preferences of the person who has a limb difference as to whether they think a prosthetic arm would be useful to them.

 

What prosthetic arms and tools are available to assist with yoga?


Yoga can be adapted and made accessible for individuals with upper limb differences through the use of various tools, adaptations and prosthetic arms. These tools and techniques can help individuals with upper limb differences during yoga practice if they decide they would like extra assistance. Here are some tools and strategies:

  • Prosthetic Arm Modifications:

Depending on the type of prosthetic arm, individuals may choose to use a prosthetic arm for certain poses or remove it for others. For instance, some people may find it more comfortable to use a prosthetic arm when practising poses that require placing weight on the arm or balancing such as downward dog or side plank.


At Koalaa we provide soft prosthetic arms which can be used for weight bearing activities such as yoga. Our prosthetic arms and tools can assist with balance and poses which require weight bearing.

  • Yoga Props:

Yoga props such as blocks, straps, and bolsters can be incredibly helpful. Blocks can be used to provide support or bring the ground closer in poses like downward dog. Straps can assist in achieving proper alignment in seated stretches. Bolsters can provide support during relaxation and meditation.

  • Wall Support:

Practicing yoga poses near a wall can offer added stability and support. The wall can be used as a balance aid for standing poses, and it can help individuals with upper limb differences maintain balance and alignment if they require it.

  • Adaptive Yoga Equipment:

Some companies manufacture adaptive yoga equipment designed specifically for individuals with physical differences. These tools may include modified yoga mats, blocks, and straps tailored to different needs.

  • Props for Arm Support:

For poses like Plank or Chaturanga (yoga push-up), using a cushion or yoga wedge under the chest can provide support when the upper limb is not used. This allows individuals to engage the core and maintain proper alignment.

  • Yoga Gloves:

Specialised yoga gloves with grip assistance can help some individuals with upper limb differences maintain a more secure hold on yoga mats, props, or their own bodies during practice.

  • Teacher Guidance:

Seek guidance from yoga instructors who have experience working with individuals with limb differences. They can provide personalised modifications and adjustments based on an individual's specific needs, if the individual requires any assistance.

  • Adaptive Yoga Classes:

Some yoga studios and organisations offer adaptive yoga classes tailored to individuals who require adaptations.. These classes are designed to provide a supportive and inclusive environment for practitioners with unique needs.

  • Online Resources:

There are numerous online resources, including video tutorials and written guides, that offer tips and modifications for individuals with upper limb differences practicing yoga. These resources can be a valuable reference for practicing at home. There are also online classes available for those who are starting their yoga journey and might not yet feel comfortable to participate in an in person class.

  • Mindfulness and Breathwork:

Yoga is not solely about physical postures. Mindfulness and breathwork (pranayama) are integral components of yoga practice.

  • Chair Yoga:

Chair yoga adapts traditional poses to a seated or supported position, making it accessible to a wide range of abilities.


Yoga is a highly adaptable practice, and the key is to find what works best for your body and comfort level. Everyone's journey in yoga is unique, and modifications and tools should be chosen to support your individual needs and goals if you wish to use them! Not everyone who has a limb difference will choose to use a prosthetic arm or assistive tools and that's okay!

 

Can you do yoga with a myoelectric prosthetic arm?


Bionic arm for yoga

It is possible to use a myoelectric prosthetic arm to do yoga. Having a chat with your prosthetist is the best thing to do before engaging in any sport activities including weight bearing poses during yoga to ensure the prosthetic arm is suitable for those activities and any tips or tricks the prosthetist might have!


A few things to consider when using a myoelectric prosthetic arm for yoga is the intensity of the yoga practice and if there is a risk of damaging or dislodging the prosthetic arm during certain poses or transitions.

 

What does it feel like to do yoga with a prosthetic arm?


Using a prosthetic to do yoga poses is a unique experience that varies from person to person, depending on the type of prosthetic and the individual!


Initially, using a prosthetic to do yoga can feel unfamiliar and require a period of adaptation. Users need time to understand the prosthetic's movements and the level of balance and support it can provide. If it’s a myoelectric prosthetic, it can take some time to feel familiar with how muscle signals work.


This year Koalaa hosted its first ever adaptive yoga event where a yoga session was given by a yoga teacher with a limb difference. Some of the guests had never used a prosthetic to do yoga before and they were all fit with a Koalaa soft prosthetic arm on the day of the event.


When speaking to one of our guests Lizzie about how she felt about our prosthetic arm she said “it’s really comfortable, like surprisingly comfortable… it was just really nice to feel like I was in a yoga class where everyone was on the same level”.



 

Koalaa’s approach to doing yoga with a prosthetic arm


At Koalaa, our user-centric approach to design ensures that individuals have the tools available if required to assist with various activities, including practising yoga flows. Our prosthetic arms are soft, lightweight and made from fabric. Our prosthetic sleeves can be paired with different tool attachments which cater to specific tasks.



We have a couple of tools available which can assist with weight bearing activities such as yoga. Our Nicole tool and the Nicole pro tool are specifically designed for weight bearing activities.


The Nicole Pro tool is designed with a large surface area help enhance balance with moves like planks and single arm weight bearing. Its curved base supports effortless flow, the longer front section and curved rear enables a rocking motion whilst maintaining contact with the ground. The Nicole Pro is also great for stretching!


The tools provide a stable contact point with the mat during a yoga session, our lightweight prosthetics and easy to operate design ensures individuals are comfortable whilst in the flow!


By designing tool attachments that cater to health and wellness activities such as yoga,, we aim to encourage inclusivity within yoga and ensure that no one feels limited by the lack of resources out there available to assist them!

 

User Stories - Victoria Chiantella

Yoga with prosthetic arm

The journey of practising yoga with a prosthetic arm is personal and looks different for each individual.


Victoria is an occupational therapist assistant and a mentor at Camp No Limits, she was born with a congenital limb difference and has always adapted and worked out her own way of doing things!


As a yoga fan, Victoria worked closely with our designers here at Koalaa during the design process of the Nicole Pro tool together with a few other yogis - taking on their feedback, we created a tool with a wide supportive base to provide stability and aid balance!


Victoria also has a few other tools which attached to her prosthetic arm, when speaking to her, here’s what she has to say “I like that Koalaa allows me to accomplish more outdoor activities as I enjoy them very much. Koalaa has made me want to do things even more and has opened up new possibilities too.”

 

Interested in our prosthetic arm for yoga?


If you want to check out our yoga tools which attach to our prosthetic arm, click the links below!



Yoga pose with prosthetic arm














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