Yoga for Special Needs consists of gentle manipulation, modified yoga poses, specialized breathing exercises and relaxation techniques, all adapted to individual abilities. It is fun, therapeutic and safe for babies, children and adults with Down’s Syndrome, cerebral palsy, microcephaly, autism and other developmental disabilities. I’ve been teaching yoga to children with special needs since 2009, when I was invited to begin one-to-one sessions with the child of a friend. This first contact was so rewarding, I began my training, including a number of ‘Yoga for the SpecialChild’ ® teacher training courses with both Jo Manuel in London and the program’s founder and developer – Sonia Sumar. I’ve recently been for more training with my friends at Yotism, the autism and yoga specialists.
As well as one-to-one and taster sessions here and there, I was blessed to have been given the opportunity to run sessions at the St Nicholas School in Chippenham. For more than five years, I have been a once or twice weekly visitor to Canons House Respite Centre in Devizes, running yoga sessions with children who have either profound medical or behavioural needs – and often both. Here’s a compilation from some of the sessions we were running in 2015.
Yoga has helped children with Down’s syndrome stay trim and flexible, and develop their body awareness, concentration and memory. After a mixture of yoga stretches and deep relaxation, some parents of children with cerebral palsy reported reductions in muscle tightness and stress levels, especially when gently stretching, flexing, twisting and realigning the spine. With time to build confidence and trust together, carers of children with Autism report that yoga can help them out of their shell, and gives them space to develop body awareness and better concentration. 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.
If you’re considering the benefits of yoga for an individual or group, or would just like to talk about yoga for special needs, please do contact me. I’d love to chat!
“Just to let you know my son and I are both loving your sessions – they’re fun, thoughtful and inspiring, as well as health-enhancing.” – Suzanne
“We brought yoga into Canons House for a specific child, but wanted to see if the benefits we saw would be repeated with other children. It has taken time for some staff to truly understand what we were trying to do, but now everyone is enthusiastic about the sessions, staff and children both. The natural benefits are obvious to all.” – Michelle
I’ve just started running a weekly class at a local special needs college and the work is funded by the lovely people at Yoga Quota. More on this soon.
I used to use 8tracks to store online mixes for Special Yoga classes where the venue had internet access. 8tracks is closing down so I’ve moved a few to Spotify …