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'Best hour of my week' | Adaptive yoga helps patients with disabilities

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids hosts yoga sessions quarterly for people from a wide variety of circumstances.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — About 50 miles separate Julie Allen's Kalamazoo home from Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, but Allen is happy to travel those miles for hour-long adaptive yoga classes.

"The yoga class itself is the best hour of my week," she said. "It’s wonderful because everything is so relaxing and stress free. All the moves are adapted to the different people that are in the class and that makes it really special."

Allen's leg was amputated almost four years ago and she did her rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed. Ever since, she's had wonderful things to say about the facility.

"People care about us not just as patients but as people and they are an amazing group," she said.

Isaiah Williams, who is in a wheelchair, also enjoys the classes.

"It makes you really loose if you’re a tight person," he said. "If you’ve got tight legs you can move them better."

Physical therapist and registered yoga instructor Kristen Nicholoff led the class Wednesday night. She said it's "open to anyone with physical or mental disabilities."

"Especially now, it’s great for stress relief but really that mind-body connection for patients that want more body awareness but also want that flexibility, that stress relief, also focusing on posture," she said.

"We have about 10 people that come out and then anywhere from two to four volunteers that help out especially for those that need a little more physical assistance."

Erinn Ton, India Kohli, and Kevin Nasre are among those volunteers.

"I’m just happy to see other people enjoy the practice of it and not letting their limitations in life change their experience," Narse said.

"It’s nice to see how they interact and how things are a little different from what we see in the clinic," Ton said.

Kohli is a beginner when it comes to yoga, but like the patients, she is experiencing the mental and physical benefits first hand.

"I like the time to just be with yourself in just kind of get away from the world and all the business of it and feel calm for a little bit," she said.

A new session begins in September. If you'd like to participate or volunteer, visit Mary Free Bed's website.

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