As Hailey Kinter shares about her life, she is both spirited and calming. Documenting and posting much of her personal journey online and through social media, she is an advocate for medical care, disability rights, and yoga for all bodies. As a disabled yoga teacher, Hailey shares a mix of her experience with dysautonomia, mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) , as well as yoga guidance, personal adventures, and community fun. While navigating the day to day of her health and journey, her voice and openness provide transparency and connections to others navigating disability and adaptive movement.
Hailey’s Medical Journey
At 13 years old, Hailey suddenly became very ill. She was misdiagnosed and spent her teen years in hospitals and doctors offices. Hailey was eventually diagnosed with Autonomic Nervous System dysfunction (dysautonomia) and MCAS. She lived each day assuming she would only get sicker until she died; all she wanted was to survive until her thirties. Hailey’s chronic conditions affect the whole body and have no known cures, so she has navigated changing symptoms and treatments through the years. In the most recent years Hailey has been using a central line to prevent seizures, for daily infusions, and during medical emergencies as well as a catheter. Standing, and some days sitting up, stresses her heart, brain, and other organ systems and can trigger life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias and seizures.
In February 2022, Hailey received the first–ever VATS surgery (Hybrid Atrial Ablation) for POTS & IST in the United States at Sequoia Hospital. While she is still early in her recovery and adjustment to life post-surgery, she has hope for her future and is grateful to her surgeons, care team, family, and community. Hailey has many plans to explore once her body is ready, and was generous to share with GRIT about finding yoga, the GRIT Freedom Chair, and what’s to come.
Yoga and Quality of Life
My entire life, doctors and well-intentioned friends were always asking if I have tried yoga. After a particularly bad ICU stay in 2014, I was not doing well mentally or physically and decided, “Fine: I’ll take a stupid, boring yoga class to get everyone off my back and who knows, maybe it will help me.”
Well, I was hooked! I felt immediately at home and at peace. I ended up taking a 200 hour yoga teacher training in 2019, not with the intention to become a teacher but for the healing experience and to make friends. Towards the very end of my yoga teacher training I decided that I wanted to become a teacher, but I felt very unprepared. I thought since I couldn’t physically do a lot of poses, or practice certain breathing techniques, how could I possibly be a good teacher? So I signed up for an advanced teacher training. With my own yoga teacher trainings, both were much longer than traditional yoga trainings, which I did on purpose to be more accessible with my health.
My physical abilities were much worse at graduation in 2020 than when I started, but my mindset had completely changed. I learned that physical abilities alone weren’t what makes someone a good yoga teacher. This translated to life: my disability doesn’t make me “less than” in any way. I have deep gratitude for my disability shaping my life perspective and shaping me into the woman I am today; it’s a gift. I also have deep gratitude for my yoga teachers and practice. Yoga healed me and made me whole. It’s a funny thing, to be whole in a broken body. I love teaching that in life, the good and bad are inseparable.
I want people to know that if they can breathe, they can do yoga. For my friends on ventilators, you can still do yoga too! Yoga is inherently accessible and if a teacher cannot adapt yoga for you, then they aren’t teaching yoga.
Hawaii and Travel Adventures
My journey with the GRIT Freedom Chair started with plans for a family Hawaii trip. My Hawaii trip was to celebrate my graduation from my yoga training- I felt so proud of myself for finishing despite my health crashing so hard. I wanted a chair that could keep up with me and get me into nature! Also, my shoulders were starting to show signs of wear and tear from not being properly taught how to push my manual chair and being in an improperly fitted chair (too big). I heard how the levers were invented to strengthen the muscles that stabilize your shoulder girdle, and how they were easier to push. I almost purchased the lever wheels but then I heard about the GRIT Freedom Chair from a Spartan race photo!
GRIT was awesome and expedited my shipping so I’d have my chair in time for Hawaii. I had no issues flying with it or eating out! Since the chair is so durable I find it safer to fly with than my day chair, which is more fragile. My GRIT Freedom Chair got a lot of positive attention- so many people stopped me to tell me how cool it is.
In Hawaii, my aunt and uncle pushed me a lot, especially in the sand, because the humidity triggered a flare so I was extra weak, but they were happy to do so. The GRIT Freedom Chair really made my Hawaii trip adventurous! Honolulu is totally accessible, by the way. My top tips are to take the bus instead of Uber, because you can roll right onto the bus, and to eat fresh $4 sushi from the ABC Markets.
I have also taken my GRIT Freedom Chair to Yosemite National Park and I plan on using my National Park Access Pass (which is totally free for disabled people!) to take the chair to many more national parks. I’ve even taken my GRIT Freedom Chair on a few boats now! I’m lucky to live in a gated neighborhood with freshly paved streets, so I love taking my GRIT chair in circles for exercise.
What’s To Come
My favorite activities are being at the beach, swimming, hiking, rolling thru nature, rock climbing, and traveling with friends & family. Nature gives me life. I’m excited to recover from surgery and enjoy time in nature in new ways.
I am looking forward to seeing my wheel-family at Rollettes Experience this summer, and teaching yoga there! I also teach yoga both in and out of my wheelchair for the virtual Yoga for All Humans Studio (@yogaforallhumans) & for the Rollettes (@rollettes_la).
Connect with Hailey: https://www.instagram.com/disabledyogi
Learn more about GRIT and the GRIT Freedom Chair: gogrit.us