The benefits of Yoga for children with special needs

What can you do with your child

When I started to do yoga, I wasn’t very concerned about what yoga really was, how to practice and how to do it. So, I consider myself very lucky because I met one person, Gandha, who is my actual teacher. She always says:

“Taking a break from work, focusing on breathing, consciously moving can make you more productive when you return to your desk. It can allow you to relax your mind, meaning work will then be done to higher standards, and more efficiently, too.”

During my Sunnyside Club, before the lock down, me and Serena introduced at the end of our session, a little space of relaxation for our kids and we realized that it’s very important to have a moment just for them. Since there, I started to put in my work session some OT and some simple yoga exercises with some of my clients and they all responded very well!

Let’s see together some pointers that can help you find your footing.

First of all, we need to drop the idea of the actual and normal yoga, and we need to thing about them, so it’s very important to start from where they are. In this way, they’ll be able to do just about anything… gradually. As a normal teaching, sometimes you’ll need to break lessons down more simply, and you’ll definitely need to be flexible and creative! But these are also the focus points during our therapy, so just follow what you are always doing to have fun!

We know that usually kids love sensory play, so following this, let’s try to keep in mind that some needs are physical and they need more verbal instruction and touch to guide their movements, you’ll physically help them into poses at first, but after a few times, maybe they’ll remember how to do it on their own. But also other needs are mental or social, like the one regarding kids with various kinds and levels of developmental disabilities or brain damage.

Emphasize touch, hands-on assistance, sound, and breath are some words that will help you to go into your teaching. Some kids on the spectrum, for example, doesn’t like to be touched a lot, so in this case it’s fundamental to create a space of pairing and sharing with very simple movements, even if it is just for few seconds. Once you reach a good point, move them slowly into poses so their muscles have time to respond.

Other kids with additional needs have, instead, too much muscle tone making their bodies really stiff and contracted—of course yoga and massage helps!

I also like to have a very calm room and a very light sound when I am doing that. I like to put an italian pianist, Ludovico Einaudi, and talk less. Another kind of music that I think fits very well is the nature’s sound.

Last but not least, teach them breath awareness and control, and help them breathe more deeply using breathing exercises.

This is a nice and fun way to start to introduce some yoga in your session!

“With regular practice, children with ADD and ADHD have used yoga to help them develop greater emotional balance and self-esteem. Most importantly, yoga can give a child with special needs a physical practice they can enjoy and feel proud of. This is challenging, life-affirming work, and every case is unique in its problems, rewards and results.”

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