Today’s guest post is by a fellow SLP Angela, yet all about a subject you wouldn’t associate with the average speech pathologist: Yoga! And just yoga, but yoga for children…of ALL abilities. I’ll let her explain…but another fantastic guest post that I think you will all enjoy! ~Katie
Yoga is easily adaptable to individual needs & creates a context for each child to thrive and emerge in their brightest light. All children deserve to be bright, light and radiant and to see those things within themselves.
A balanced approach to yoga includes the following elements:
- Asanas (poses)
- Pranayama (breathing)
- Mantras (positive affirmations)
- Mindfulness (paying attention to what is happening in the present moment)
- Relaxation (includes guided imagery)
- Yamas & Niyamas (character education)
In general, poses that provide “flexion” are calming, poses that provide “extension” are alerting/energizing and poses that use both sides of the body and/or cross midline promote focusing. Yogic breathing increases blood oxygenation and can produce calming or energizing effects depending on the type of breathing you are doing.
Yoga is not just “poses” & “breathing”. It also includes how you are listening to your body and how your mind is focused on the present moment. Yoga is a personal activity that looks different with each child or teen. Yoga is not about how we “look” on the outside, it is about how we “feel” on the inside.
While kids love doing yoga as a group activity, it can also easily be adapted and experienced in little “yoga tidbits” throughout the day. Short yoga activities can easily be incorporated at the beginning of therapy sessions to help regulate, ground & center kids so they will be better able to engage and learn in a meaningful way. Yoga can also be used during transitions, breaks or to enrich and enhance a learning experience.
Some of the many benefits of yoga for kids include improving or enhancing….
- Strength, flexibility and balance
- Concentration, focus and attention
- Inner strength and body awareness
- Confidence and self-esteem
- Creativity and imagination
- Awareness of breath
- Relaxation and self-control
- Feeling of well-being and respect for others
- Boots metabolism, lymphatic circulation and hormonal circulation
- Improves immune response system
- Enhances digestion
- Improves memory and ability to follow directions
- Increases lung capacity and facilitates deeper breathing
Additional benefits for kids with special needs….
- Since yoga is a non-competitive activity that can be adapted to any level of need and ability, all kids have the opportunity to participate and feel successful.
- Yoga addresses heightened anxiety, poor motor coordination and helps regulate sensory systems.
- Yoga strategies can easily be incorporated into daily routines and existing educational and therapeutic goals.
- By incorporating yoga into a storytime, kids have the opportunity to move their body to become part of the story. The use of music, singing, art & props tap into additional learning modalities. This multisensory approach enhances learning.
- By becoming aware of their bodies and aware of their breathing, yoga provides kids with the ability to cope when they start to feel anxious or upset.
- The breathing techniques and guided visualization assist by reducing stress, teaching coping techniques, and providing a sense of calm and acceptance. Once a child has learned some of these elements they can use them anytime, anywhere. This enhanced ability to self-calm will allow the child to learn from and participate in educational and daily routines in a more productive and enjoyable fashion.
- Affirmations are especially powerful for kids with special needs. They often get the message that something is wrong or needs to be “fixed” in them. It is important that all children know that they are special, important and loved just for “being” and not because of something they “do”.
For more details see handouts from my presentations at the Oklahoma Autism Conference and the Oklahoma Childcare Association Conference, go to the OMazing Kids Website Here.
Angela is a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist at the JD McCarty Center in Norman, Oklahoma (www.jdmc.org). She has 22 years experience working with children with a wide range of disabilities from birth to age 21 in a variety of settings. Angela became interested in kids yoga after reading research about the benefits of yoga for kids with Autism, ADHD & other special needs as well as for kids in general. She is certified in Radiant Child Yoga (level 1 & 2), has attended additional yoga teacher trainings, belong to the International Association of Yoga Therapists and have been teaching kids yoga for over 2 years. Angela leads a weekly therapeutic yoga group for our inpatients at the JD McCarty Center and also teach inclusive yoga classes for kids & teens of all abilities. In addition, she incorporates yoga into her individual speech-language therapy sessions with many of the inpatients & outpatients she sees at JDMC and volunteers to teach kids yoga at Educare in Oklahoma City 1 x month. Educare serves 200 disadvantaged children, ages birth to five years old, with year-round early childhood education programs. Angela founded OMazing Kids, LLC in 2011 to help spread the word about the benefits of yoga for kids & to encourage folks to offer inclusive yoga for kids & teens of all abilities and loves to share ideas for kids wellness and connect with other folks on my OMazing Kids blog and social media pages! Be sure to check out the Omazing Kids Blog, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube!