Yoga and kids go together. Kids want to move, explore their world, and interact physically and mentally in order to understand themselves and their environment. Yoga provides a perfect opportunity to do so.
As yoga has gained in popularity and medical acclaim, it has been implemented with positive results by special needs individuals and groups. Yoga has proven effective for children with:
– Cerebral Palsy
– Down Syndrome, and others needs.
While yoga is not a "magic" cure, it will encourage physical activity, increase self esteem, provide relief from symptoms, promote positive social interactions, teach stress management, and develop muscle tone and flexibility, along with providing numerous other benefits.
Yoga poses, or asanas, are especially beneficial for improving weaknesses while building off of strengths. Using photos of animals or small stuffed animals which coordinate with the pose name helps children focus and engage multiple learning skills. Poses can also be easily adapted to accommodate physical limitations and specific requirements.
Teaching children yoga breathing provides one of yoga's greatest benefits. Yoga breathing increases lung function and capacity. As well, it provides a calming tool which is accessible anytime, anywhere, empowering children to meet their emotional and physical needs independently.
The relaxation skills which yoga teachers show children how to relax and focus. Using visualizations and affirmations helps children access internal strengths. Progressive muscle relaxation trains the mind increasing body connections and awareness. In addition, relaxation releases oxytocin, the feel good hormone, and instils a sense of peace and acceptance.
Finding a children's yoga instructor who is knowledgeable about special needs can be challenging. The best place to look may be your local Yoga Association as they have lists of certified instructors in your geographic region. Alternately, you can approach a reputable yoga studio to inquire about classes for kids or special needs. The yoga community is one built on sharing, so even if they can not meet your needs or answer your questions, they may know someone else who can.
As you incorporated yoga into the life of your child with special needs you will notice generous benefits. These may manifest physically, emotionally, or mentally. Often after just one session children will become more aware of their body and emotions. With regular practice these positive connections will be enhanced leading to improved health, better coping skills, and increased optimism.
Yoga should be used in conjunction with the advice of a certified medical practitioner. Please continue to take all prescribed medications and follow other recommended health and wellness routines.