Make wheels a will to win: Indian Spinal Injuries Centre organizes Wheelchair Yoga Session

Commemorating International Yoga Day this year, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, New Delhi today organized a first-of-its-kind wheelchair yoga session at the hospital premises, where 20 participants from different wakes of life took part. The innovative session was conceptualized and supervised by Ms. Pragya Ghildial Senior Yoga Therapist, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, Vasant Kunj, Delhi.

Indian Spinal Injuries Centre

Derived from Sanskrit, the word ‘yoga’ actually means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness. Originated in ancient India, yoga is today widely practiced in various forms around the world. Till date, this ancient fitness-cum-spiritual practice has revolutionized the lives of thousands of people across the globe. In 2014, The United Nations recognized the universal appeal of Yoga and declared 21st June as the International Yoga Day.

“Yoga combines meditation, breath control, and body postures in order to aid mobility and body awareness. It is a practice that combines elements of physical fitness, mental awareness and spiritual awakening. I personally believe that specially-abled persons or people having undergone debilitating injuries or body paralysis should have equal opportunity and access to do yoga. As a matter of fact, wheelchair yoga is technically not different at all from any other form of yoga, rather it only refers to a set of poses you can do while being seated,” Says Pragya Ghildial, Senior Yoga Therapist, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, Vasant Kunj, Delhi.

Ms. PragyaGhidhiyal, the first female Yoga Therapist on wheelchair in India, is a peer counselor and an athlete who has represented India in international Para athletics.  She is also the recipient of the National Award 2016 for best sports person with disability in the women’s category.

Yoga was a passion and way of life for Ms. Pragya since childhood. After studying Yoga academically, Pragya was running her own yoga studio in Delhi. Her life changed after a disastrous road accident, which left her lower body paralyzed permanently, only when she was 22. But, she decided not to give up, and derived new ways to re-ignite her passion of doing Yoga.

“Few months after the accident, I realized that my wheelchair was actually my `will’ chair and learnt basic and advanced wheelchair skills, to make optimum use of my existing physical abilities. I took charge of my life again and continued with what I was doing before the accident. I started teaching meditation and pranayama (breathing exercises) to patients at ISIC. Yoga is still my passion. Earlier, I used my whole body for it, now I use half my body, but it still feels great,”says Ms. Pragya.

The outstanding ‘comeback’ story of Ms. Pragya has inspired many in the past, and continued to do so. Through yoga, Pragya helps people having suffered similar disasters and injuries at ISIC come to terms with their new life after rehabilitation.

“Wheelchair yoga helps wheelchair users maintain flexibility, posture and adds to the strength of their limbs, without putting too much strain on joints. It can be a great way to overcome depression as well, which many people experience, after getting confined to the wheelchair. With right techniques, expert guidance, and best willpower, wheelchair yoga can turn around your life too, as it has done for me,” feels Ms. Pragya.

In today’s session, she demonstrated yoga asanas, exercises and Pranayam which can be done conveniently on the wheelchair. The asanas included Jaanu Sirasana (Knee bending), Ardha Titli (Half butterfly pose), Ardha Naukasana (Half boat pose), Shavasana (Corpse pose), Makarasana (Crocodile pose), Sukhasana (easy pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose).

Warm up exercise: Eye, neck, shoulder rotation, hands up and down and wrist movements.

Pranayama: Bhastrika, Anulom-Vilom,  Surye Bhedi, Chandra Bhedi, Ujjayi, Bhramri, Singhasana.

Additionally, she also taught the participants warm up exercises of the eye, neck, shoulder and hands, which can be done without any support, before and after one practices yoga on the wheelchair.

“When it comes to rehabilitation of people confined to wheelchairs, ISIC is entirely dedicated to develop a long term strategy for their well-being. ISIC places special emphasis on rehabilitation and advance assistive technology to enable people with spinal and other orthopedic injuries lead independent and productive lives.  We believe in equal participation of persons with disabilities in an inclusive society that embraces humanity in all its diversity, and the yoga session conducted today was a small effort in that direction,” says Dr. Chitra Kataria, Head – Rehabilitation, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre.

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