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Yoga for all: Physical therapist adapts exercise for those with developmental disabilities

The downloadable booklet on yoga for people with a range of developmental disabilities.

The downloadable booklet on yoga for people with a range of developmental disabilities.

From its origins in India more than 3,000 years ago, yoga in America today has a reputation for improving flexibility, balance and muscle strength.

Rebecca Alexander, who graduated from Upstate with her doctor of physical therapy degree this spring, extols the versatility of yoga, which can be done sitting in a chair or wheelchair. She hopes to work with patients who have neurological impairments. “Yoga can provide significant benefit,” she promises.

“Yoga is about intention and the breath. It doesn‘t matter if you can‘t get your arms all the way over your head. The intention doesn‘t get lost.”

Alexander has been involved with “Unified Yoga,” a program that grew out of a mainstream yoga program at the Southwest Community Center in Syracuse.

Mainstream yoga, adapted for people with a range of developmental disabilities, such as autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, was an effort by Upstate pediatrician Nienke Dosa, MD, for people between the ages of 16 and 40.

Yoga classes were held outdoors in good weather, with students unfurling colorful yoga mats on the grass at Thornden Park and Burnet Park, and then following Alexander through a series of poses.

Alexander teamed up with Joy Papazides-Hanlon, a teacher at the community center, to create a 28-page booklet for the Inclusive Fitness Initiative, a three-year pilot program paid for by the New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.

Download the booklet, for free, at www.inclusiverec.org under the “resources” and “useful articles” tabs.

Upstate Health magazine summer 2018 issueThis article appears in the summer 2018 issue of Upstate Healthmagazine.