Last updated on December 7th, 2023.
Yoga is practiced worldwide, helping people sleep better, decreasing their stress and anxiety, and even alleviating their aches and pains.
But, until the past few years, one community didn’t have much presence in yoga studios. And that was the community made up of older adults, those recovering from injuries, those with chronic pain or illness, and those who have a disability. More and more, studios are offering adaptive yoga classes, opening up the world of yoga to a broader audience—an audience of people with differing abilities.
The 5 Best Online Adaptive Yoga Teacher Training are:
So, if you’ve always been curious about teaching adaptive yoga or are new to the concept, read below.
Benefits of Adaptive Yoga
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society touts adaptive yoga as removing the barriers for people who use wheelchairs, have balance issues, or have pain when they do weight-bearing poses. Adaptive yoga poses can help relieve stress ribcage spasms that occur with MS, work on tight hips, and release back tension.
Rehabilitation centers offer adaptive therapies to help people with all sorts of rehab. Yoga can help rehab patients stop focusing on the negative and begin to work through their physical or neurological challenges. In fact, in time, students may find that although they have limitations, they can balance out those limitations with abilities they didn’t even know they had.
And even retirement homes schedule yoga classes to keep elderly residents fit, healthy, and active.
By finding new abilities, adaptive yoga students may find strength deep inside themselves and discover new levels of self-reliance.
Brain injury patients may be guided through adaptive yoga sessions to help them regain coordination and balance.
Post-cardiac event patients can also use adaptive yoga poses to regain strength and may find themselves in better shape than ever with a regular yoga practice.
Adaptive yoga classes will allow people with similar physical experiences to meet, allowing them not to feel so alone. They’ll genuinely become part of the yoga community.
Applied Adaptive Yoga in the U.S
We have a diverse nation. Not only in our rich cultural heritage but also in the diversity of our bodies and abilities. No. No longer are older people relegated to sitting out their golden years in the old folks’ homes; they’re getting out, going places, and working to stay healthy and active.
Treatments are changing for patients with conditions such as arthritis, MS, cerebral palsy, etc., and doctors are suggesting people keep moving and stay active.
With the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act, businesses are required by law to be accessible to all people, which has increased the freedom and autonomy of disabled people.
These reasons have sparked the increase of yoga offerings for all population segments.
There is now yoga geared toward people living with trauma (teach trauma-informed yoga), yoga for pregnancy (prenatal yoga courses online), yoga for people who have trouble sleeping, and yoga for people who may not physically be able to do some or all of the yoga poses in a typical yoga class, even an introductory yoga class such as Hatha.
Those with movement issues, illness, and injuries enjoy the positive feelings and outcomes from fully practicing what is known as Adaptive yoga. Adaptive yoga teachers take all the building blocks of a typical yoga class but add a unique spin. The poses are modified so that people of all abilities can attempt them.
However, adaptive yoga is more than modifying a pose so everyone can achieve it. It’s about empowering people and teaching them they won’t be held back and will be included in the yoga world. And that kind of empowerment will teach people that they can make their own decisions in life.
Learning how strong you can become inside and out from the yogic lifestyle will allow you to realize that you can be strong in all aspects of your life.
The 5 Best Online Adaptive Yoga Teacher Training Programs
We will take you through five great online Adaptive Yoga Teacher Training programs for yogis interested in teaching adaptive yoga.
In adaptive yoga teacher training, you’ll learn
- The language of adaptive yoga.
- Deep understanding of how to modify poses for every type of ability.
- Knowledge of how to teach all students that they belong.
We’ll also give you five tips on making your class accessible, from physically altering the studio so that all students can be comfortable to offering a wide array of props, pillows, and other items so that your students can easily and freely go through their practice.
You may find you’re inspired to go down a new yogic path. A path that will be beneficial to all.
But, first things first, check out the five best online Adaptive Yoga Teacher Training programs. Don’t forget to check out the links and look at the syllabi. If you have any questions about one of the programs, you can contact the studios for more information.
1. My Vinyasa Practice 40-Hour Adaptive Yoga Program
My Vinyasa Practice’s 40-hour Adaptive Yoga Teacher Training will certify its trainees to teach Adaptive Yoga and Chair Yoga.
The course will help medical professionals, therapists, and yoga teachers impart their yoga knowledge to people with limited mobility.
Yoga teacher trainees will receive:
- The fundamentals of using chairs as props
- Seated, standing, and supine postures using adaptive modifications.
- Information about Chair Yoga dancing
- 40 non-contact CEUs with Yoga Alliance
- Access to the MVP Community
Trainees can finish the program in as little as four weeks, though My Vinyasa Practice recommends that students take their time to deepen their understanding of adaptive yoga.
After they finish the program, teachers will know how to teach yoga to all body types and people of varying abilities.
2. Jai Bhakti Yoga Foundation Online Adaptive School of Yoga
The Jai Bhakti Yoga Foundation Online Adaptive School of Yoga promises to teach future adaptive yoga teachers to:
- Dismantle oppressive behaviors that limit our expansion, growth, and opportunities in today’s society
- Alleviate chronic pain from stored trauma held within the Myofascial system
- Cultivate the tools to induce Homeostasis (inner peace and balance) through Ayurvedic self-healing practices
The Jai Bhakti Yoga Foundation’s 200-hour Online Adaptive Yoga Teacher and Business Training Course Adaptive follows Yoga Alliance standards while using research covering Parkinson’s and other movement disorders, limited mobility, spinal fusion, osteoarthritis, sciatica, mental and emotional issues, and breathwork training.
(Wondering what can I do with a 200-hour yoga certification? Check out that article to find out!)
Program students will learn post-modifications, adaptive sequences, and therapeutic approaches to enhance their yoga students’ quality of life. The hope is for program students to help their yoga clients decrease their dependence on prescription drugs and find healthier ways to eliminate chronic pain.
Graduates of the program can work in underserved communities safely and consciously and will empower their yoga students and allow them to lead healthier lives.
The course will take students four months to complete and will include:
- Two weekly group coaching sessions live via Zoom CST
- Lifetime access to course curriculum
- Done-for-you content
- Private Facebook group
3. Space Yoga Institute of Health and Wellness’s Adaptive Yoga Teacher Training
Space Yoga Institute of Health and Wellness’s Adaptive Yoga Teacher Training will give students the ability to teach yoga to special populations such as seniors and pregnant women, as well as people dealing with:
- Depression and anxiety
- Recovery from addiction or abuse
- Chronic pain and neurological challenges
- Yoga throughout a person’s lifespan
Space Yoga says, “The most valuable quality of an Adaptive Yoga instructor is the ability to connect with the individuals they serve deeply, and this program aims to nurture and develop that specific characteristic in its students.”
The course offers its students:
- Proven teaching methods
- Self-paced learning structure
- Knowledgeable and experienced instructors
- High professional standards
- Evidence-based tools and techniques
Space Yoga Adaptive Yoga teacher trainees will develop deep connections to the lifestyle and practice of yoga and will gain the skills to pass on those connections to their yoga students.
Class modules include:
- Ancient Ethics
- Yoga Through the Lifespan
- Chair Yoga
- Yoga for PTSD and Other Emotional/Mental Issues
- Yoga for Pain and Neurological Conditions
- Yoga for Recovery and Trauma-Informed Teaching
- Yoga for Cancer
- Styles of Assisting
- The Yoga of Business
Students can study for the Adaptive Yoga Teacher Training virtually from their homes or at an intensive one-week-a-month, 10-month in-person class in Augusta, Georgia.
After they’ve completed the program, teachers will have an understanding of the issues facing people from a wide variety of communities. And they’ll have the compassion and strength to make a difference in all people’s lives.
4. Accessible Yoga School
The Accessible Yoga School’s online training will allow its students to explore “foundational aspects of equity and accessibility in yoga.”
The course will teach yoga teacher trainees to:
- Understand the benefits of accessible yoga practice, including enhancing muscular strength, balance, and flexibility, improving physiological functions, reducing stress, anxiety, and chronic pain, and promoting overall health and well-being
- Determine safe and appropriate variations of common asanas for a range of physical abilities (chair, mat/bed, standing)
- Learn specific asanas for flexibility, strengthening, and balance training to maintain or improve health and independence.
- Understand the purpose and implementation of props to make yoga accessible to all abilities.
- Acquire knowledge of common medical conditions and the benefits and concerns of implementing a yoga practice.
- Learn to create integrated, Accessible Yoga classes where students of different abilities can practice together.
- Explore how yoga can be adapted to suit students with disabilities, physical challenges, seniors, children with disabilities, people with larger bodies, and more.
- Learn how to make your classes welcoming to everyone, empower students with agency, and approach students in a trauma-informed way.
- Review the physical and psychosocial benefits of pranayama and meditation and how to make these practices available for all students, regardless of ability.
- Learn how to apply the teachings of yoga philosophy in day-to-day life to reduce stress, create more balance, and develop authentic connections with self and others.
- Explore techniques to build a strong community among your students to support the transformational process of yoga.
Students can take the adaptive yoga teacher training in their homes while working at their own pace.
The course includes:
- Live training with a team of experts on accessible yoga: 20 hours of live virtual classroom time
- Video resources: 10 additional hours of required pre-recorded videos and homework
- Digital Accessible Yoga Teaching certification
- Connection with a vast network of teachers and practitioners around the world dedicated to sharing this ancient practice with everyone
- Free six-month membership in Accessible Yoga’s Ambassador program
- 30 contact hour CEUs from Yoga Alliance (for yoga teachers) or International Association of Yoga Therapists (for yoga therapists)
Once completing the certification program, yoga teachers can market themselves as Certified Accessible Yoga Teachers and use the name in their class listings. Plus, they’ll have membership in a Facebook group in which they can connect and network with other accessible yoga teachers.
5. Mind Body Solutions Intro to Adaptive Yoga Workshop
A leader in spreading the word about the healing power of yoga, Matthew Sanford, founder of Mind Body Solutions, holds interactive 3-day online Intro to Adaptive Yoga workshops.
The class will show yoga teachers how to open the world of yoga to yoga students of any ability.
Sanford will allow yoga teachers to explore their yoga practice from a different perspective. They’ll learn about the core principles that apply to all bodies. Then, they’ll work on using those core principles in various yoga postures, from the floor to seated and finally to standing.
There are universal sensations in yoga that can be found when exploring inward. Recognizing and understanding those sensations will teach yoga teachers how to teach yoga to various populations. And to teach those populations to live with their whole body.
The workshop will feature instruction, reflection, yoga poses, and a group discussion. After the workshop, yoga teachers will have a solid foundation in sharing yoga with everyone, regardless of their ability.
Sanford is not only a prominent adaptive yoga teacher; an accident when he was 13 caused him to paraplegia, so he is well-versed in adaptive yoga from a student’s point of view.
So, he has a unique familiarity and insight that he passes on to his workshop attendees.
Students who take the workshop will be eligible for 16.5 Yoga Alliance continuing education hours.
5 tips to help make yoga more accessible
If you’re interested in making your yoga business plan more accessible and want to teach adaptive yoga to students, you will have to make some conscious changes to how you teach. You will need to reprogram your mind about the cues and methods you use to guide students through their practice.
You’ll need to be aware of the physical differences all people have. People may look able-bodied, but they may have neurological problems that you cannot see. You’ll learn to recognize and create abilities for yogis anywhere in their journey when you become a certified yoga teacher. If you haven’t chosen the program yet, we recommend checking out our best online yoga teacher training list.
Yoga teachers must open their minds and put themselves in other people’s shoes. They need to broaden their beliefs about what a typical yoga student looks like and what they can do.
Yoga has never been one-size-fits-all. As retirement homes, rehabilitation centers, and national organizations that help people with MS, cerebral palsy, and arthritis suggest adaptive yoga for healthier and happier living, the yoga community has responded.
As you’ve seen above, adaptive yoga teacher training programs are springing up. Yoga teachers are increasing their knowledge about how to teach for all abilities.
So, we’ve got five tips for teachers to make yoga more accessible to their students. They include ways to make a yoga studio more friendly for people in wheelchairs and with movement problems.
But we’ve also included tips for a rethink of the language yoga teacher trainers use. Language that is more inclusive and less judgmental.
So, please keep reading for our five tips to help yoga teachers make yoga more accessible.
1.) Accessible spaces
Yoga can be helpful to all people, but not everyone feels welcome in a yoga studio. Some people who want to learn yoga may not even be able to enter a yoga studio physically.
If you want your yoga studio to include everyone, including older people, people rehabbing from injuries, and people in wheelchairs, you’ll need to make it accessible.
You should ensure that wheelchair users have spaces to park their cars in or curb cuts near the door to the studio.
The studio will need to have bathrooms accessible to everyone. It will even need a front counter that is low enough for someone in a wheelchair to use.
If you have a coatroom, you’ll need to ensure there are some lower coat hooks so all students can reach them.
Also, having chairs available for students who cannot get down on the floor is another great way to make a yoga studio accessible.
And don’t forget props. Those who need adaptive yoga have a wide range of abilities. Some people may need blocks, while others may not.
There are ergonomic engineers that you can consult with before you plan your studio. They have the know-how to create a comfortable and inviting space for everyone.
Your students will appreciate this, they’ll keep coming back, and they’ll tell their friends!
2.) Use props
Using props, such as bands, pillows, and blocks, can help students enjoy yoga and feel included in the practice. Students in an adaptive yoga class can get as much out of the class as someone with a full range of motion. They may need to lean on a pillow or support their hips with a block.
Some students, due to injury, age, or disability, cannot perform poses in a typical way. They may be unable to bend, reach, or exert themselves to the extent that the rest of the class does. They may not even know their abilities, as they may have had the opportunity to test their strength.
In that case, guiding students through props will allow them to enjoy their practice fully. They will fully discover their abilities and strengths and probably surprise themselves with what they can achieve.
Teacher trainers will learn that if a student cannot do a seated forward fold without pain in the lower back, guiding them to place a bolster on their lap while leaning forward to their limit will allow them to participate fully in the class.
Or, if a student is lying on their back and cannot get into a hip-lifting bridge pose, a teacher will show them that they can put a soft foam block under their hips. This will allow the student to attempt the pose but remain safe and secure.
However, One thing to remember is to ensure that your students know they don’t have to attempt every pose. They should listen to their body and know they are always welcome to move into a comfortable post, such as a seated pose or child’s pose.
And, to be inclusive, make sure that props are passed out to everyone in the class. Let your students decide if they want to use them or not.
But try not to put someone in the spotlight by only offering props to them because you feel they may need them. You could hand out the same props to everyone in class and let them know they are welcome to use them for comfort.
3.) Use non-judgmental language
Just like handing props out to everyone, try not to single anyone out with your language. And allow students to move into an alternative post or sit in a resting pose.
When guiding a student through an adaptive yoga class, be aware of how you give your directions. Don’t assume that everyone in the class can do even what you consider a simple pose.
You may want to use language such as: “Move into the forward fold if it is available to you.” And “Feel free to move into a seated position or child’s pose if you need to take a break.”
And don’t refer to poses as easy or hard. One student’s easy pose could be difficult or impossible for another student.
Your students will know they have options. And they’ll know they are in charge of their bodies and practice.
A yoga class could be one of the first times a disabled person has checked in with their body. They may be focused on their abilities and inabilities to do things and may not have ever had a chance to learn what their body can do.
4.) It’s not just about the physical
Yoga is so much more than physical moves. As a yoga teacher, you studied ancient philosophy and discussed Ayurvedic medicine. You learned about chakras and systems of energy in the body.
So, just because a student or a class of students may have mobility differences and be unable to do a typical yoga class doesn’t mean you can’t impart yoga to them.
Instead of guiding a student into a headstand, teach them about the chakras and how each chakra affects the mind and body.
Or, instead of directing your students through a grueling vinyasa, you could run them through meditation. There are a variety of meditations that can help students take adaptive yoga.
If you teach an adaptive yoga class to students who may experience pain from arthritis, you could direct them through a meditation that focuses on Ahimsa (non-judgment to one’s self), where they notice their aches and pains but don’t react or judge them. Learning this could help people dealing with chronic pain.
Or, you could offer a sound meditation, where you’ll have students meditate to the sound of a singing bowl. This is a great meditation to relax. Sitting in a wheelchair or walking with a cane can be tiring and can lead to discomfort and stress. A sound meditation will allow your students to clear their minds and focus on the sound.
We all know that decreased stress will most likely lead to better sleep. If you’re dealing with pain or illness, your sleep may be interrupted, so guiding students through meditation is a must.
5.) Create a sanctuary of non-judgement
Whether you teach a dedicated adaptive yoga class or you may have students in a typical class who would benefit from adaptive yoga poses, let your students know that they are entering a non-judgment zone.
At the beginning of every class, you can remind your students to keep their eyes on their mat and not worry about what everyone else is doing.
It’s pretty standard for yoga students of all abilities to focus on that student on a nearby mat who can bend deeper, balance longer, and reach higher.
And, you as a teacher may be contributing to your students judging themselves without even knowing it.
For instance, if you direct your students into a pose but don’t give any alternatives, that one student who can’t get into the pose for several reasons may begin to judge themselves negatively.
So, again, at the beginning of class, you can let your students know that they can go into a resting pose at any time. And, when you are directing your students into a pose, always give them options of easier ways to get in and out of the pose.
You can also teach your students to appreciate their uniqueness. If they criticize themselves and think of themselves as failures, you can boost their confidence by letting them know that no one’s yoga practice is alike.
Empower your students. Let them know they are in charge of their bodies. You are only giving them suggestions. The path they are on is their own.
And, the great thing about ensuring your students know they are in control of their bodies? They may find themselves becoming more independent and making more decisions for themselves. You may be opening up a whole new world for them.
Your job as a yoga teacher will be to safely guide students through their practice and allow them to discover their abilities.
A yoga student needing a more adaptive yoga class may not know their abilities.
They may have never tried to push their bodies to see what they can do. And they may happily find that even though they are limited in one aspect, they have strength that they never even imagined in another part of their body or mind.
And thankfully, there is more support than ever for yoga students or prospective yoga students who need adaptive yoga classes. More and more studios offer adaptive yoga, making yoga more inclusive and studios more welcoming.
We hope you check out the five adaptive yoga teacher training classes we listed. Make sure you take the time and see what they offer. There will probably be a class just right for you.
And don’t forget about the five tips for you as a yoga teacher to make your class more inclusive of everyone. As the tips included everything from making the studio handicapped accessible to changing how you give directions in a class, you’ve got a lot to learn and discuss.
And, if and when you begin teaching adaptive yoga, know you’ll open a new world to people who need it.