WORDS: Cheryl Albright
Over 251 million families in the United States are caring for someone with special needs or a disability. Special needs can be physical, neurological, or mental/behavioral health concerns. Did you know that Yoga can help?
The Importance of Yoga and Meditation
Yoga is a time-honored and clinically proven way of bringing life into balance by uniting body, mind, and spirit, through the use of postures, movement, controlled breathing, and meditation. Yoga postures, singing, and breathing exercises, were designed to prepare the body for meditation. Meditation is keeping the body still for a prolonged period with a single focus. Is this not what kids are expected to do all day at school?
Why should Yoga be a part of the intervention plan?
Children are being stressed to the max every day in our school system. Some states have taken away any specialized diplomas, so children with special needs are expected to take the same tests as typical peers. Children are asked to sit much longer than in the past. Also, children with special needs are unfortunately, often the victims of bullying.
My child has special needs or is in a wheelchair. How are they going to participate in a Yoga class?
Being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean these practices won’t work. When teaching yoga to children with special needs, many different aspects of yoga are used and follow a developmental progression. It is not just the physical postures. Singing, or chanting mantra, keeps kids engaged and calm. The breathing exercises not only calm the mind but also increase saliva, according to research by Dr. Sundar Balasubramanian.
They have found that this decreases inflammation, increases neuro growth factor proteins, as well as stimulates rest and digestion. The eye exercises performed in some lineages help promote skills needed for reading and writing. The physical postures strengthen and improve flexibility. Guided relaxation, or meditation, helps calm the body and the mind.
How can Yoga help your child?
Parents are reporting amazing benefits from yoga-based therapy for their children with special needs including: better sleep patterns, improved digestion, decreased behaviors, improved self-confidence, increased strength and endurance, improved coordination, and the list goes on.
Yoga for children with special needs should be included in the therapy vocabulary just as occupational, speech, or physical therapy is now.
About the Author:
Cheryl Albright, the creator of Soul To Soul Yoga, grew up with an older brother with autism and an aunt with Down Syndrome. She began working with children with special needs through Rotary Camp Onsewaya at the age of 14. Cheryl has now been an occupational therapist for 15 years, teaching Yoga for the Special Child® for nine years.
She received her registered Yoga Teacher training in 2014, and advanced training in adapting Hatha yoga for those diagnosed with scleroderma, as well as becoming a Certified Yoga Therapist in 2017. Recently, Cheryl began providing continuing education on yoga in therapy settings in Florida.
WHAT LOCAL PARENTS SAY?
“I have noticed a lot of improvements with my daughter’s ability to calm herself and self-soothe.” – Christine
“My son loved it! He said he felt very calm and relaxed after.” – Keri
“Decreased anxiety and improved posture.” – Jennifer