Adaptive Yoga is an alignment-based yoga, unifying body, mind, and spirit. It is a modern evolution of the traditional practice, which was always intended to suit the needs of the individual. The system works first with the physical body and its alignment, building an even balance between strength, stability, flexibility, and symmetry between the front and back of the body, left and right, upper and lower halves, linking as much of the body within consciousness as possible. Traditional and esoteric aspects of yoga are introduced throughout the ongoing development of the physical practice to honor the yogic tradition. Though much of this process is achieved through yogic postures, many other traditional yogic tools are used whenever they may be to the student’s maximum benefit. In Adaptive Yoga, the classical poses are adapted for individuals of all needs and abilities using modifications and sequencing of poses for maximal physical, physiological, organic, mental, and energetic effects.

Modifications of individual poses ensure correct body alignment first, address correct action within the asana (pose or posture) next, and then address any physiological or organic considerations third, so that bit by bit, the student can access his or her own body in increasingly more refined and intimate ways. This develops both strength and suppleness, as well as the refined mental control and sensitivity over fine muscular actions, which can lead to meditation. There are deeper levels of consideration, but the first three will be sufficient for most beginners.

Often the term “modification” is used to refer to the use of props to make the pose easier for students who find the completed pose too strenuous. This is only partially true. Modifications are used to make the correct actions of the poses accessible. While most of the gross modifications are done with the use of props to reduce strain, there are situations in which the props make easy poses more challenging–either for flexibility or stability, and usually for both. Sometimes modifications are done more subtly by adjusting the position of the hands or feet, or the angle of a limb out of the “classical” alignment. This is only done in special situations, and always for reasons specific to the individual’s structure, fitness, ability, constitution (see Ayurveda), and overall health.

Very often, a student is capable of a certain pose, but one or more parts of the body are out of consciousness and/or performing an incorrect action. In this case, the modifications are used to awaken consciousness in parts of the body where it is lacking. That lack of consciousness reflects a lack of space or breath, and leads to imbalance of the vitality of the tissues in and connected to the area. Bringing consciousness to parts of the body that are lacking, and refining that consciousness where it already exists, ensures the vitality of body and mind in all body types. Thus, the poses are adapted to the individual to awaken consciousness through the entire body in a safe and appropriate manner, the result of which is a full and natural, balanced, breath. Attention to the breath is stressed from the very beginning, though classical pranayamas (yogic breath practices) are not always appropriate, and only introduced when the student is ready.

Ultimately, the awakening of consciousness is the purpose of yoga, and Adaptive Yoga is no different. This awakening is done first within the body using the postures, then develops to mindfulness within the context of the outside world, and thirdly within the psycho-emotional world using breath awareness, meditation, and pranayamas. Eventually, the practitioner observes that though the training of consciousness is first done through the body, consciousness is consciousness, regardless of where it is turned. From props to enlightenment, Adaptive Yoga is a complete practice for the entire person.


Photos taken at Ashtanga Yoga Montreal and United Yoga Montreal

All photos by Andre Coutre and subject to copyright

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