Many people with chronic health conditions and those recovering from surgery are afraid to exercise. Often fearful of causing more pain, or simply not feeling well enough to attend a group class, they will avoid pushing their bodies outside their comfort zone, therefore missing out on potentially beneficial rehabilitative opportunities.
An innovative and inclusive fitness and wellbeing event on Saturday, May 5th, encourages people of all abilities and disabilities to try out yoga and fitness classes – some of which are specifically aimed at those with cancer, chronic illnesses and/or mobility issues.
Organised by Denise Coughlan, from Resolute Pilates & Wellness, the Got Your Back Ireland in the Red Cow Moran Hotel, Naas Road, Dublin, from 9am-5.30pm will host classes run by fitness instructors and yoga teachers, experienced in dealing with people at various stages of illness and recovery. "I got the idea to do this because I think there aren't enough inclusive fitness classes and by inclusive, I don't just mean people with disabilities but also older people and people with illnesses," explains Coughlan.
Coughlan, who is also a cardiac rehabilitation instructor, will host a pilates class for all levels of fitness and ability on the day. She also hopes the event will help spread the word about instructors who are already hosting inclusive classes.
Connie Walsh is a registered nurse and yoga therapist who will offer yoga for cancer patients and chronic conditions at the event. "Some people who get cancer are scared to go back to yoga. They feel like their body has let them down and it can be the hardest thing to lie down and relax in a yoga class again," she says.
Some people who get cancer are scared to go back to yoga. They feel like their body has let them down and it can be the hardest thing to lie down and relax in a yoga class again
Walsh says that there is no right time to return to movement classes following cancer treatment. "For example, Ashtanga yoga may no longer be suitable for someone after cancer. It's a balance between challenging yourself and knowing when not to challenge yourself. It's about finding a new normal. I often suggest people attend a few of my classes to learn how to tweak postures and then go back to their own class," explains Walsh. She also recommends people avail of cancer support services affiliated to the Irish Cancer Society and organisations such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society and Arthritis Ireland, all of which share information and advice on tailored exercise classes.
Anna Teague from the Lucan Yoga Studio, Lucan, Co Dublin, will chair a yoga class at Got Your Back Ireland for people with mobility issues and wheelchair users. "These yoga classes are for those who find getting up and down to a mat a problem. My passion is making yoga accessible to everyone and this is a gentler form of yoga using the chair to sit on and also the back of the chair as a support," she explains.
Teague says that there is now an international movement to make yoga accessible for people of all ages, sizes and intellectual/physical abilities and disabilities. “You can still move your back, shoulders, neck and arms in a chair and breathe, meditate and relax in a chair.”
Christopher O'Connor is a gym instructor at the National Sports Campus in Blanchardstown, Dublin. A wheelchair user, he runs para-fit classes for people with and without disabilities. "It's an hour-long upper-body circuit designed for people with disabilities and wheelchair users," he explains. O'Connor will run an introductory para-fit class at the Got Your Back Ireland event.
Chartered physiotherapist Alison Quinn and personal trainer Rachel Brown teamed up to offer movement classes that are suitable for anyone with scoliosis and those who've had spinal surgery. Held in the Rehab Rooms physiotherapy clinic in Deansgrange, Dublin, the classes are open to everyone while accommodating the needs of those with specific spinal conditions. They will host a sample class specifically for people with scoliosis or spinal fusion at the Got Your Back Ireland event.
“A lot of people are afraid of movement and exercise following spinal surgery yet we know that people work better in groups and prefer [physiotherapist] supervised exercise classes,” says Alison Quinn. She recommends these inclusive classes after post-surgery assessment and rehabilitation sessions. “It’s important that people know what they need to be careful of before they go to a class. For example, people often think that their strength, flexibility and balance will come back naturally but muscle imbalances change post-surgery. The spine itself has been changed by spinal/knee or hip surgery and the muscle alignment might not have caught up with that.”
Advanced booking for Saturday's classes is advised (€10/€15 per class), by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling Denise Coughlan on 085-288 6110, or going to gotyourbackireland.weebly.com. All instructors are giving their time for free, and proceeds from the event will be donated to the charities Spinal Injuries Ireland and Straight Ahead Ireland.