Yoga for Amputees
Marsha T. Danzig, founder, Yoga for Amputees.
Photo credit: Augusta Rose
Yoga is increasingly more accessible for diverse populations, one of which is amputees. Whether taught in a clinical setting, at a conference, or in a small group class, amputees learn modifications and adaptations that empower them to eventually attend a standard yoga class. Marsha Therese Danzig, founder of Yoga for Amputees, is the first amputee yoga teacher in the U.S., and herself an amputee. She says that part of the journey through limb loss is feeling normal again, and the ability to participate in yoga nurtures a growing sense of normalcy.
Yoga benefits amputees in the same way it benefits anyone, by developing strength, balance and flexibility in the body they have now. Balance is especially important, as fear of falling is one of the bigger challenges for amputees. They also receive similar benefits in terms of anxiety and stress reduction. But Danzig notes that, in addition, yoga helps with pain and trauma management, increased confidence and, perhaps most importantly, a return to a sense of wholeness.
Necessary modifications depend on a variety of factors, including how many limbs were lost and where (above or below the joint), prior fitness level, type and level of comfort of prosthetic, and level of phantom and/or chronic pain. Muscle imbalances are common due to over or under use and adapting to the way muscles have been reattached during surgery. Frustration can easily arise, so cultivating mindfulness helps amputees take things slowly and approach yoga with a sense of exploration, creativity and self-compassion. Matthew Sanford, founder of Mind Body Solutions, which provides accessible yoga to those with spinal cord injuries, says yoga is “being able to work with integrity within the body you have, without attachment to the way that you think that the pose should look.”
The Amputee Coalition of America estimates there are 2 million amputees in the U.S., with that number expected to double by 2050. The main causes of limb loss are vascular disease, which includes diabetes and peripheral artery disease; trauma; and cancer. Through training programs like Danzig’s, yoga teachers learn to help amputees discover the tools and confidence they need to reconnect with their bodies, thrive and reclaim a sense of identity.
The Amputee Coalition will hold its National Conference Thursday, July 12, through Saturday, July 14, in Tucson. Each morning begins with a yoga class accessible for all levels. Breakout sessions, workshops and activities empower amputees to live more fully with limb loss and build community. Topics include: overcoming challenges, maximizing function and mobility, gait analysis, fall prevention, and pain management. In addition to daily yoga, there will be a swim class and adaptive golf. Spouses and caregivers are welcome. Continuing education credits (CECs) are available for healthcare professionals.
Kim Carter, MA, HTCP, RYT, teaches yoga at Restoring Balance Mind & Body, in Mesa. Her 200-hour training is in the Viniyoga lineage. She completed the Yoga for Amputees training and has also studied with Matthew Sanford. Her passion is making yoga accessible for all. She also teaches Rewind Yoga for older students and Yoga for Breast Cancer. To connect with her, call 253-549-5342 or email Kim@RestoringBalanceAZ.com.