Adaptive Yoga: Making Yoga Accessible To Every Body

Last Updated:

Adaptive yoga arises from the increasing demand to make asana, the physical yoga practice, and other aspects of yoga more accessible by tailoring them to the needs of each individual, and not the other way around.

In the western world, the practices of yoga have been hyperfocused on physical performance, mostly providing spaces for white, cis-gender, middle to high-class women.

Through adaptive yoga and accessible practices, the intention is to reclaim the practice for all, beyond background, economic status, physical and mental abilities, gender identity, etc.

With an emphasis on fitting the practice to the individual and not the other way around, adaptive yoga practices are revolutionizing the practice.

In this article you’ll learn more about:

  • What is Adaptive Yoga
  • Adaptive Yoga Benefits
  • 8 Adaptive Yoga Asana
  • Other ways to practice adaptive yoga
a collection of yoga props to make adaptive yoga asana

What is Adaptive Yoga

Adaptive yoga is a sub-category of accessible yoga, a way of teaching yoga (especially referring to asana but not limited to it) that puts the practitioner first and intends to make the practices of yoga, meditation, and wellness, available to a broader range of folks.

Adaptive yoga is not a particular style of yoga, but an approach to teaching and practicing this ancient philosophy that can be brought into any yoga space or style.

According to Radomoski and Latham, adapting can be described as “The process of modifying an activity of daily living, craft, game, sports, or other occupation to enable performance, prevent cumulative trauma, injury, or accomplish a therapeutic goal”

When practicing yoga, sometimes we are encouraged to work hard at fitting our body into a particular shape and reach the full expression of the pose.

In adaptive yoga, the objective is to shape the posture to the individual needs of each practitioner with the use of props (blocks, straps, blankets, bolsters, chairs, etc.), variations and modifications of the postures, inclusive language, and tools to adapt the practice.

a man doing chair yoga in his room

Some of the styles of yoga may be easier to adapt than others, yet with a little creativity and exploration, the practice can be adapted to most people and what they have access to on any given day, without forcing the body into shapes.

Yoga teachers who offer adaptive yoga and accessible practices, often do so from a trauma-informed lens, creating a container where practitioners find space to explore the practices of yoga safely.

a woman doing a yoga pose using blocks

Adaptive Yoga Benefits

Practicing adaptive yoga can be beneficial for anyone looking for a practice that can be dialed and modified according to the needs you may have on any given day.

This is particularly beneficial for those with chronic illness, disabilities, as well as short-term and long-term injuries.

Adaptive yoga is also great for older adults since it provides space to modify as needed.

Here are some more of the benefits of adaptive practices of yoga:

  • Increased strength
  • Improved posture
  • Increased blood flow
  • Improved bone and muscle health
  • Reduced anxiety and stress
  • Lowered cortisol levels and better-regulated adrenal glands
  • Strengthened joints and tissues
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved mood and stamina
  • Increased self-awareness

Adapting Yoga Asana

Check out a few ways to adapt some of the most common yoga poses with the use of props like blocks, chairs, straps, blankets, and more.

1# Tadasana seating on a chair with blocks

a woman doing an adaptive yoga pose-  mountain pose on a chair

The main intention of the mountain pose it to ground into the earth and find length through the spine, to find alignment by simply standing.

When adapting the shape, consider using a sturdy chair to sit on, and either place your feet on the earth or on top of blocks to find more steadiness.

2# Garudasana laying on your back

a woman doing an adaptive yoga pose- eagle pose on her back

Eagle pose is a balancing asana, but it is also great for the legs, hips, shoulders, and arms.

A way to adapt the posture is to simply shift the plane, and perform it laying down on the ground, taking the balancing aspect out, and making it more accessible.

3# Vrksasana with a block

a woman doing an adaptive yoga pose-  tree pose on a block

Another posture that can challenge your balance is the tree pose.

To adapt it, consider placing a block underneath the free foot, and playing with your balance from there.

4# Paschimottanasana sitting on a blanket and with blocks

a woman doing an adaptive yoga pose-  forward fold on a blanket with a block

Seated forward fold opens up the entire back of the body; from the calves and hamstrings through the hips, lower back, and spine.

Bending the knees and placing blocks underneath them can ease the intensity on the hamstrings and low back, also allowing the upper body to relax.

Also, consider bringing a bolster over your legs and resting the torso there for even more comfort.

5# Virabadrhasana II with wall support

a woman doing an adaptive yoga pose-  warrior 2 pose against a wall

For those struggling a bit with balance, Warrior 2 can be quite challenging when performed in the middle of a room, on a yoga mat.

Bring your mat closer to the wall and use the wall as a support, either by bringing the fingertips to it, or perhaps supporting your whole back body on the wall.

6# Malasana with a blanket

a woman doing an adaptive yoga pose- malasana on a blanket

If when you access garland pose your heels don’t touch the ground, you can let them float, or if you want more comfort, fold a blanket as thick as you need and slide it underneath your heels.

7# Ardha Chandrasana with a wall and a chair

a woman doing an adaptive yoga pose- half moon pose on a chair

To challenge your balance and help you become aware of your alignment, try practicing the half-moon pose with the floating foot pressing against a wall, and the bottom hand supporting you by being firmly planted on a chair.

When adapting the yoga postures, just like any other form of physical movement, make sure you consult with your primary physician first for recommendations.

Other ways to practice adaptive yoga

Accessible and adaptive yoga also invites teachers and practitioners to consider that the yoga practice is not limited to the physical postures, alignment, and sequencing.

Yoga can also include pranayama, meditation, and yogic philosophy. These practices can also be adapted and modified to fit the needs of each individual, bringing another layer of accessibility to the practice.

In this approach, breathwork and meditation practices are explained to the participants in detail, and different options are offered so that students have as much autonomy as possible when practicing yoga.

Adaptive and accessible yoga teachers

If you’re curious to explore adaptive yoga practices, here we share some of the teachers that are currently doing the work of bringing adaptive and accessible practices to the forefront of the yoga industry.

The following free YouTube classes illustrate very well what adaptive yoga can look like and how it can benefit a wide variety of people.

These classes use variations and modifications as well as use props like blocks, straps, bolsters, chairs, and blankets to give you space to adapt the practice to your needs.

Jivana Heyman

In this 15-minute class, Accessible Yoga School founder, Jivana Heyman, shares a practice with students where options are offered for someone practicing using a chair, and someone using other props to support their practice.

Matthew Sanford

A wheelchair user himself, Matthew Sanford‘s class is a great example of how to teach adaptive and accessible yoga without demonstrating the entire time.

In this one-hour class, Matthew shares an adaptive yoga practice with excellent cueing and options for all practitioners.

Dianne Bondy

Dianne is a body-positivity advocate and yoga teacher determined to make yoga accessible to more people, with a strong focus on larger bodies.

This is a short dynamic class with seated and standing postures utilizing a chair as support.

Rodrigo Souza

Another teacher who uses a wheelchair and is at the frontlines of promoting accessible and adaptive yoga is Rodrigo Souza.

This seated class invites you to explore gentle movement and breathing in a bit over 45 minutes.

Anjali Rao

This video is a great example of practicing yoga beyond the physical practice.

Anjali shares a meditation and then dives into yogic philosophy principles to support our lives.

Laia Bove

In this short tutorial, Laia shares a few ways to access side plank pose, vashistasana, in order to adapt it to your practice and needs.

Amber Karnes

Another pioneer in yoga for larger bodies and body positivity in fitness spaces.

Amber’s class combines postures seating on a chair as well as others using the chair as a prop for standing.

The class ends on the ground with the use of props like a bolster and blocks for maximum comfort.


Adaptive yoga is not a yoga style, but a way to teach any yoga class where the focus is away from perfecting the shapes and a one-size-fits-all approach into a practice designed to fit each individual and what they need at any given time.

The adaptive yoga approach encourages teachers and practitioners to use props and other ways of support in order to make space for folks with different abilities and needs and ultimately become more inclusive.

To learn more about how to use blocks, check out this article.

Photo of author
Laia is an Afro-Catalan accessible and inclusive yoga & meditation teacher. She has trained in hatha, vinyasa, trauma-informed yoga, yin yoga, and restorative yoga and holds E-RYT 500 and YACEP accreditations with the Yoga Alliance. Additionally, she is a freelance writer and translator, publishing in Catalan, English, and Spanish. As a former professional athlete who lives with a chronic illness, Laia has gained valuable insights into the benefits of self-care and the importance of pausing and slowing down. She is dedicated to sharing accessible and sustainable practices of yoga and meditation to help people create a more harmonious life. Being a black and chronically ill individual, her mission is to empower non-normative yoga teachers to find their unique voices and develop tools to make wellness practices accessible to the communities they serve, thereby taking up space and creating a more inclusive and diverse yoga industry. Furthermore, as a writer and creative, she is passionate about supporting other creatives and innovators. She fosters a genuine community dedicated to finding balance while staying productive and inspired. Laia has developed unique techniques that intertwine yoga and meditation with writing, journaling, and other accessible methods to help each other stay creative and mindful.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.