Chair yoga with Movingness at Deva Yoga, Chislehurst, London, every Tuesday at 11.30 AM. From the right: Judith, Paul, Susan, Gillian and Linda.

Making somatic yoga and somatic movement accessible to everybody

Jun 02, 2024

“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I created a softer, more healing practice for myself. And I decided to share it and make it accessible and inclusive to as many people as I could,” writes Nina Rashid, senior yoga teacher in London, UK.

By Nina Rashid


I started my yoga journey in 1997 in Kerala, India. During that time, I was flying around the world as a cabin crew for a major airline, based in the Middle East.

I have always been very active and competitive, but compared to other sports, I loved the softness of yoga. Yoga, in all its forms, drew me into its magical realm. And within one year I found myself at the beautiful White Lotus Foundation training to become a teacher with the esteemed Ganga White.

Since then I have trained in scores of body and mind methods including hot yoga, children’s yoga, yin yoga, restorative yoga, yoga nidra, meditation, Movingness, mindfulness, accessible yoga, qi gong, and MBCT (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy).


A personal tragedy

After 21 years of working in the airline industry, I decided to change careers and teach yoga full-time in London. During my first years as a full-time teacher, I mainly taught hot yoga and a strong vinyasa class.

However, in May 2012 I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Unfortunately, the cancer had already spread and I had to go through a grueling year of treatment. It was followed by 10 years of hormone treatment.

Straight after my first surgery, I knew my yoga practice would have to change. In fact, my physio told me straight away to forget about chaturangas, arm-balance poses, and my strong yoga practice.

I have now been clear for 12 years but struggle with a lot of side effects and my whole outlook on life has changed.

Hiking in the Mountains! Chair yoga with Movingness at Deva Yoga, Chislehurst, London, every Tuesday at 11.30 AM. The classes are also available online. From right to left: Judith, Paul, Susan, Gillian and Linda.


Guided by my intuition

Amid a personal and physical crisis, it is very tempting to give up, shut down, and cling tightly to what was and has been. But a crisis can also set you free from constraints. You can let go of what has been normal for many years and be the best you can right here and now.

So in this situation, I stopped and paused. I let my intuition flow through and guide me. And I created a softer, more healing practice for myself.

My crisis also gave me another insight: I realized I wanted to teach yoga to anyone who might find it hard to access a regular yoga class. My intention was to make yoga accessible and inclusive to as many people as I could.

After a bit of hard work along the way, I now teach yoga to stroke patients via the Rewire APP, in retirement homes, for the MS society, and in one-on-one classes for cancer patients. I’ve also started a pilot scheme for chair yoga at Guy’s Cancer Care and Queen Mary’s Hospital. It was a success – until the world locked down in 2020.

During the lockdowns, I taught chair yoga online and continued to teach and help inspire cancer patients.


Celebrating every body

In this new stage of my life, I wanted to learn more about how to design yoga classes for students of all ages, sizes, abilities, or experience levels. Jivana Heyman, the founder of Accessible Yoga is a good friend of mine. So I enrolled in his training and became one of the first Accessible Yoga ambassadors in the UK.

Accessible Yoga believes we all deserve equal access to yoga regardless of ability or background. Through yoga, we can celebrate all ages, body types, experience levels, and disabilities.

In my role as an ambassador, I want to facilitate a holistic approach to yoga. I want to teach in a way that empowers, supports, and inspires my students to explore and adapt their yoga practice and movements to their own unique needs, intentions and lifestyles.

All my classes are now accessible to everyone. I even incorporate chair dance into my chair yoga classes. This is a popular movement form as we dance our way to staying fitter in the golden years!

Making Waves! The average age in the chair yoga group is 75 years young. We’re usually around 10 in the class, but today some were away on holiday.


Finding my playful side

On my healing journey, I’ve been drawn toward somatic movement and embodiment. So when I read about Movingness on Donna Farhi’s Facebook page, I decided to sign up for the program. 

The nine-month teacher training has been an eye-opener for me, a slow, smooth journey through my mind and body. I have really enjoyed it!

Movingness brought out the playful side in me. I loved the animal movements and the connection to nature. I felt young and free as I did in my childhood! 

After the cancer treatment, I felt detached from my body. But now I feel so at home within. The Movingness practice helped speed up the process immensely. It is a precious approach that enables us to tune in to more and more subtle aspects of our extended mind-body connection.


Remaking Movingness

After the training, I decided to incorporate Movingness and somatic flow into my yoga classes. During the training, I had to adapt quite a few of the Movingness movements myself. Especially the Gecko Series – where we create flowing movements lying face down – was challenging for me.

For my assignment, I used a chair version of Hiking in the mountains, which I had already adapted to my chair yoga classes. After that, I worked through the other movements and modified them to make Movingness more inclusive and accessible. To my delight, it was quite easy to adapt the flowing movements to a chair or even a standing sequence.

My students love the soft Movingness moves. They have to use their brain power more, especially when using opposite limbs. 

The process of using opposite limbs is something I call crossing pathways or cross patterning. This is when the limbs cross the midline of the body, often connecting to the opposite side, creating swinging or crossover movements. 

In my experience, these movements can help yoga students with their coordination and neurological processing. Moving opposite limbs and creating patterns with the body can make neural processing a fun challenge.

As you can see from the images, this is not a silent yoga class. It’s a very social setting with lots of chatting and laughing. Today after class we all went for lunch.

The Movingness practice brought out the playful side in me. I felt young and free, as I did in my childhood. 


Such a pleasure!

In my chair yoga classes, we now use many Movingness movements. We hike through the mountains and create waves. We do a bit of Tiger through a seated variation of cat/cow. We also do Jellyfish breathing, which is a really good way to activate the core. 

Touching hands is a great way to reconnect with the body. As we age or go through chronic pain and illness, a sense of disconnection from the body is very normal. The simplicity of touching hands creates a positive energy, almost like befriending your body all over again.

During my classes, I encourage my students to use the wall for support, especially to help with balance. Supported by the wall we can create flow – Hiking, Waves, Touching Earth… 

I want to facilitate a holistic approach that empowers, supports, and inspires my students to explore and adapt their yoga practice and somatic movement to their own unique needs, intentions and lifestyles.

All these wonderful movements are easy to make accessible for everyone.

My students in class and my one-to-one classes really enjoy the somatic flow of Movingness. After each flow, we always create stillness to let the body rest and absorb the flowing movements. At the end of the class, we add a short seated meditation and some breathwork.

I will now incorporate Movingness and somatic flow into all of my accessible classes. It is such a pleasure to teach! 

Nina Rashid


About Nina Rashid:

I live and work in South East London, UK.

I can be contacted via my website 

You can email me at [email protected]



A deep somatic experience!

Movingness is a new movement method for deep somatic experiences. Curious how it works? Please, try this short sequence and feel for yourself!

Yes, I’m curious!