Inspiring Stories: Adaptive Yoga Live
On the back of delivering a class for the deptartment of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport we caught up with Miranda McCarthy, founder of Adaptive Yoga LIVE, who created an AI adaptive yoga assistant for the disabled community.
RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS. I’ve had it since the age of 2. It’s a painful autoimmune disease that attacks the synovial fluid around the joints – eventually the joint is destroyed before it needs to be replaced. I was the youngest recipient of bi-lateral hip replacements (that means they replace both hip joints at once) in the US.
Before yoga I felt constantly at war with my body – my body was attacking me.
My name is Miranda McCarthy and I recently won a Points of Light award presented by the British Prime Minister for bringing Adaptive Yoga LIVE to the disabled community during Covid-19.
Adaptive yoga is designed to make yoga more accessible, especially for those who have injury, physical restrictions, or disabilities.
Traditional yoga poses are adapted (using chairs and props) so that they can be experienced by everyone – regardless of their level of ability. The emphasis is on the experience within the pose.
“We don’t use our body to get into a pose, we use the pose to get into our body”
Through 40 years of operations, rehabilitation and medication my focus was only on managing my disease. After multiple surgeries and learning to walk again (several times over), I had become aware of my body in space. I needed to protect it. Falling would mean more time in hospital.
I became so in tune with my body, even, to the point of craving food which would help reduce my inflammation. I thought I knew my body inside and out – until I discovered adaptive yoga.
At the age of 42, I realized my ‘relationship’ with my body, had only just begun!
Yoga, for me, was about crafting a new healing, accepting, & loving narrative around my own body image. Yoga taught me to thank my heart for beating, to honour myself for the work I put in, to be kinder to myself, even as far, as to give myself a hug.
They say everyone’s yoga journey is different, some say spiritual, my journey taught me self-compassion.
I no longer judged myself – or compared myself to abled bodied people. For the first time, in my life, I’m talking openly about my disability and referring to myself as disabled. Yoga united me with my disability.
Adaptive Yoga LIVE was a direct response to the urgent need to support the more vulnerable and physically challenged people in lockdown during Covid-19. Knowing that millions of disabled people would be forced into self-isolation I decided to launch free, live, online adaptive yoga classes.
The goal was to unite the disabled community, in a shared experience to reduce stress and improve wellbeing, during these difficult times.
“I have a great deal of health anxiety. I have also been shielding during the current pandemic, due to this life has felt overwhelming and painful at times. I found Adaptive Yoga Live about a month or so ago and it has been a total life changer for me. The videos provide me with a regular way to have gentle exercise to my own ability both physically and mentally. I couldn’t thank you all any more. I am now a devoted follower. Thank you.”- Ella Palmer-Jenkins
At the moment, we are a volunteer service. All of our teachers, who are specially trained in adaptive yoga, are committed to exploring ways to expand access to the practices of yoga – for disabled people. They have been working tirelessly since April providing free classes, three times a week, to teach people how to use the body to calm the mind.
Yoga is unlike any other exercise as it produces a change in calm, and relaxation, that takes place on a neurobiological level. It shifts you, biochemically, from a state of excitement and tension to a state of calm, deep rest, and relaxation.
Only deep breathing that accompanies mind-body practices like yoga can do this.
Yoga shows you a way of re-inhabiting the body, with harmony & ease, no matter how painful the body may feel.
Learning to live with the body rather than fighting against it is truly the path to a richer, more satisfying, quality of life.
There are so many resources to help people stay fit and keep moving – but it is vital that people with disabilities aren’t being left out of that conversation.
We recently just took part in the all-staff conference for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) where we provided a 30 minute adaptive yoga practice on Zoom.
We received fantastic feedback from the many participants who never knew yoga could be inclusive for people of all abilities. This is just one of the fantastic organisations we have had the opportunity to work with since our launch. Others include Airbnb, The Great British Week of Sport, Mind, Activity Alliance, and others.
We in Social Tech is the perfect programme to help me build the foundations of my growing business. I see technology as a way to help provide access to yoga for millions of disabled people globally. I’ve recently acquired a volunteer marketing manager (Rosa Lowis) through Leone Baron, the cofounder of Be Interwoven, another company with me in this cohort. The peer to peer support and advice is what sets this programme apart from the others.
I believe Adaptive Yoga LIVE can be part of a bigger step-change needed to make the world a more compassionate and inclusive place for disabled people. Thank you to We in Social Tech for helping me on my journey to empower disabled people.
We in Social Tech is an innovative accelerator, set-up to support ambitious women-led social technology businesses. The programme is delivered by Nwes, the largest not-for-private-profit enterprise agency in the UK, in collaboration with founding partner Deutsche Bank, through its social enterprise programme Made for Good. The tech accelerator programme will support a total of 85 social tech businesses by 2021.
Read more about the accelerator here>>