Rodrigo Souza (he/him) is an Adaptive & Accessible Yoga teacher with experience in teaching yoga to folks who have gone through Trauma & Disability.
Through direct personal experience with traumatic injury, and chronic pain, and discovering the need to take charge of his recovery to optimize long-term well-being, Rodrigo decided to become a Yoga teacher and teach from his own experience, creating Allihopa Accessible & Adaptive Virtual Yoga Studio.
He is focused on creating a supportive community for those who have experienced trauma & disability through Adaptive yoga.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your yoga journey…
Hi, my name is Rodrigo Souza (he/him), a short-term undecided and long-term optimism. I got introduced to yoga in my mid-twenties, I used to work as a bartender and a DJ while living in London and used to visit a Bikran Yoga studio a few times a week to detoxify my body. For me, back then, Yoga was a physical exercise. Yoga for the body. Time has passed and I suffered a spinal cord injury (T3 complete) in 2014 after a fall accident, and due to that, I became paralysed from the chest down and also a full-time wheelchair user, and since my injury, I started deepening my Yoga practice. Yoga for the Soul. Adaptive Yoga helps me deal with muscle spasticity, chronic nerve pain, anxiety, and many other secondary conditions that the injury brought me. Yoga has helped me to fall in love with my broken body and to accept it as it is. It allowed me to be who I am and to accept what it is.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My day is fulfilled with short yummy self-care practices. As I live with chronic pain and in a disabled body, I need to be very aware of my energy and pain levels. I start my day with a short & sweet Yoga practice in bed, then I make sure I have a quick practice every three hours after sitting in the wheelchair (it is when my muscles start to tighten). I also always try to squeeze in a cheeky 30-minute Yoga Nidra after lunch, just to keep things going and to ground myself. Then there is always a class to teach so I don’t need to do any practice in the afternoon as I am teaching. To finish the day, I have another bed practice to reduce my muscle spasms and add a gratefulness/ mindfulness practice there to ensure I nurture my emotional health before calling it a day.
What do you enjoy most about sharing the practice of yoga?
I generally teach folks who have gone through trauma, loss and disability. So it brings me a tremendous amount of joy and a deep sense of responsibility and purpose. For me, they are the ones who need Yoga the most, and they are the ones that experience Yoga the least. Some of my students are going through the most difficult moment of their lives, some of them have newly injured themselves, some of them deal with heavy PTSD, and It fills my heart with warmth when I have the opportunity to safely hold space to them and help them to experience everything there is to experience, without fear, without bypassing and denying anything. To bring themselves back to their ‘broken body’ and help them see that they are still whole. Yes, there is a lot of grief, but also a lot of beauty. For me, there is nothing else in the world there brings me more joy. The opportunity to serve, to help and to build community. Happiness and long-lasting joy live right there and I feel immensely grateful to be able to develop and do the work I do.
What advice would you give to anyone seeking an accessible yoga practice?
The first thing I would say is that Yoga is already accessible. Yoga is for everyone if you breathe and you can practice Yoga. Every movement you do consciously is Yoga. Every time you switch off the volume of distractions and come back to your body, you are practising Yoga. So, my advice is to let folks know what Yoga is because it can be very intimidating to start practising Yoga with a disabled body when all you see in social media and marketing materials are white skinny women doing super flexible postures. Yoga is not just that, it is so much more. Yoga is a powerful tool of self-discovery, self-compassion, self-acceptance, love and equanimity.
Do you have a favourite quote or life motto?
Fall in love with taking care of yourself. Fall in love with the path of deep healing. Fall in with long exhales, with self-regulating, with silence. Fall in love with life. Then go and spread the love with the world.