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Nina is an inclusive Yoga Instructor and the owner of Sitting Fit Yoga. She has been delivering weekly Online Yoga Classes for WheelPower since May 2020 and has supported hundreds of disabled people to benefit from regular exercise throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
"I am paraplegic and use a wheelchair full-time following a car accident in 1988. Following my injury I had my rehabilitation at Odstock spinal unit in Salisbury, before finishing school and then University. After graduating I volunteered for Motivation Charitable Trust, an international development organisation that sets up local provision of wheelchairs and support for disabled people. I ran ‘peer group training’ programmes, teaching wheelchair users the skills to be independent where any form of rehabilitation was lacking in developing countries. I spent 5 months in Albania and travelled to Romania, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and South Africa."
"I have tried various sports in the past from archery to skiing and enjoyed playing tennis which is where I met WheelPower's CEO Martin McElhatton. Other than yoga, these days I go for regular pushes and hand-cycle rides to enjoy some fresh air with my family."
When did you start doing Yoga?
"I have always tried to look after my health and keep as independent and mobile as possible. After the birth of my second son, I started exploring Yoga more and set up Sitting Fit Yoga to support local people to enjoy the many benefits of Yoga."
"Time has inevitable effects on all of our bodies and as we age it is increasingly important to spend a little more time looking after ourselves. I myself began experiencing pain and weakness in my shoulder a few years ago and through gentle stretching I managed to eliminate the pain and bring back strength in that shoulder. That is when I realised that regular yoga is a great way to maintain flexibility that has such an impact on our posture, strength and the health of our joints. As wheelchair users we of course tend to overwork our shoulders and arms which also impacts our neck and back, and due to sitting our joints in the lower body such as hips and knees can get very tight. Yoga is a fantastic way to address our posture, flexibility, strength, and general well-being."
In March 2020 WheelPower and Nina released their first Adaptive Yoga video in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It has since been watched over 20,000 times and continues to be enjoyed the world over by disabled people discovering Yoga for the first time. It was the first of 3 Yoga videos from Nina that can all be enjoyed on the WheelPower YouTube Channel
"Yoga is a safe and effective way to increase strength, flexibility and your balance that can lead to improvements in both your physical and mental wellbeing. The first video focuses on some gentle stretching for the neck, shoulders and arms for wheelchair users. These movements should help you to feel freed up in the upper body, which can get tight and inflexible from repetitive motions or misalignment in movement and posture."
What do you enjoy about delivering the online classes for WheelPower?
"I have so enjoyed delivering the online chair yoga classes for WheelPower and I love that we can create that sense of being in a class together despite being spread out over the UK. We have a lovely group of people, many of whom have been coming to classes for many months now and have made Yoga practice part of their weekly routines. But it’s also always nice to welcome newcomers, in the hope that they too will find the classes beneficial and enjoyable."
"I love the yoga sessions with Nina. I'd not done yoga before and I highly recommend them." - Sophie
How important has regular exercise and these new online opportunities been to you and the people we support during the past 18 months?
"Having the opportunity to deliver yoga online with WheelPower has been incredibly beneficial in enabling me to reach people who may not be able to access a Yoga class locally or who may find it difficult to get to a class in-person. It has been particularly important to everyone in the last 18 months to have the opportunity to engage with others and feel a sense of community when this has been so limited by Coronavirus and the lockdowns. Being able to stay active, whether that's through Yoga or the other exercise classes is essential for the health of the mind and the body and when opportunities are more limited for those with a disability, having an online option is really important."
Do you have any tips for staying motivated and exercising during the colder winter months?
"It can be hard to stay motivated in the winter months with the shorter days and less light. My top tips would be to start the day with a good breakfast to give you long-lasting energy, such as some warming porridge with a teaspoon of peanut butter and sliced banana. Try to get outside for some fresh air while it’s light even if that’s just for a short time as it will help your body’s circadian rhythm which helps you to sleep at night and boosts your mood. And by incorporating some Yoga you will help release endorphins, the feel good chemicals, calm your nervous system and boost oxygen absorption as well as keep your joints moving and muscles stretched out!"