Abilities in Motion (AIM) recently sponsored a Mindfulness and Self-Care workshop and invited Ebony Smith of Yoga N Da Hood to lead our group through guided meditation and chair yoga stretches. AIM’s goal was to start the year off with a zen mindset and a balanced chakra. . . just kidding, but we did hope to show how important it is to practice mindfulness and self-care, especially for those with disabilities.

Ebony shared her personal story about the struggles of growing up in inner-city Dallas and her path to the practice of yoga prior to the birth of her daughter. For her, it was life changing. She struggled to find a place to practice yoga in South Dallas, so eventually Ebony created her own unique path to wellness – Yoga N Da Hood. Her mission is to equip individuals with the tools to empower their own lives. 

People of every fitness level joined our workshop, and all were able to enjoy and participate at their own levels. Each of us wrote down what we do for self-care, and the answers were varied, from taking a walk and playing with children to stretching, massages and aroma therapy. It is clear that regardless of our fitness levels or disabilities, mindfulness makes a significant difference.

As Ebony guided us through our meditation, her drummer, Ezekiel, played along on the dunun for emphasis on important words or thoughts. She encouraged us to still our minds for a moment in the middle of our busy day – a practice we could all benefit from as we manage the pressure and stress of our daily responsibilities – both personal and professional.

Yoga, meditation and other stress-reduction techniques encourage us to breathe with intention, stretch and lengthen our muscles and practice stability and stillness. For those of us with disabilities, physical or mental, these practices can be extremely helpful, as they increase our awareness and strength and teach techniques to improve concentration and relaxation.

I was curious about the science behind yoga and disabilities, and came across a Harvard Health Publishing article (Harvard Medical School) that notes, “By reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems, (including). . . reducing heart rate, lowering blood pressure and easing respiration.” And in another study of fibromyalgia patients, some who practiced yoga and some who did not, “The yoga practitioners had the highest pain tolerance and lowest pain-related brain activity during the MRI.”

So whether you’re into yoga or you prefer Pilates, walking, running or hiking, it’s clear that movement and meditation can ease stress, anxiety, pain and other ailments. And if you suffer from any type of disability – physical, mental or cognitive, mindfulness and self-care can have a profound positive impact on your overall wellbeing.

Learn more about Yoga N Da Hood – https://www.yogandahood.com/