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Education

Learning Disabilities

Tips for Doing Yoga with Children with Disabilities

yogaTalk to anyone who loves yoga and you will probably hear them say, “I practice yoga.” Even the greatest yoga masters think of themselves as yoga students. There is no such thing as the perfect yoga pose. In yoga, we understand that everyone has a beautiful body and that we all move in different ways. One yoga pose or asana may be comfortable for one person but may be challenging for somebody else (even if both people belong to the same family!). When practicing yoga with your child, encourage him to “do his best” and praise her efforts often. Encourage him to tell you he feels proud of himself, too! Here are some ways to make yoga easy and fun for your child:

  • Allow your child to do the pose in a way that feels right for his body.
  • Don’t expect your child (or yourself) to do poses the way they look in pictures. Remember in the tree pose, you can put your foot on your ankle, shin, or thigh, If this is too challenging, you can rest the toes on the floor while the heel touches the ankle Help your child get into poses as she works toward doing them by herself. For example, in downward dog pose you can hold up your child’s hips. In the tree pose, you can hold up your child’s arms. Encourage your child to breathe deeply when holding a pose.

  • Try partner yoga.
  • Experiment with the double tree pose. Facing a mirror, both you and your child do the tree pose with your child’s back body leaning against the your front body. (You can hold your child’s arms up for extra support or you can both help each other to balance). Look in the mirror and smile at each other!

  • Use props to encourage your child to work on poses all by herself.
  • Encourage your child to do poses next to the wall. Use the wall for balance. Try sitting on a cushion. This may help your child sit up taller or be able to sit all by herself. Place small objects on the floor to help your child with balancing poses like the tree. Place the object about 4-6 feet in front of your child so she has something to focus on while balancing. During the relaxation pose, cover your child’s eyes with a yoga eye pillow or soft fabric. (You can make an eye pillow by filling a soft sock with rice or flaxseeds. You can even scent the filling with lavender or some other soothing oil.)

  • Set up an inviting yoga environment.
  • To help your child get ready for yoga, find a special place that is as neat as possible. Make sure the setting you choose is quiet and free from distractions. You can also, play soft music, and dim the lights to set a peaceful tone.

  • Use a sticky mat.
  • You can buy these at any sporting goods store or online. These keep feet and hands from slipping. Mats are also a great way of helping your child learn about space and boundaries. Sticky mats do not cost a lot. They make great gifts too.

  • Make sure to have a clear beginning and ending.
  • Start your yoga session by closing your eyes, focusing on the breath, and being quiet and still for one minute. You can also start with a saying like “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”. The end is just as important. After shavasana (relaxation pose), you and your child may want to sit facing each other and thank each other for spending this special time together practicing yoga after you say “Namaste.”

  • Make it fun!
  • Your child should feel like this is play, not work. That will keep her asking for more! You might want to create your own games like “Yogi Says” (that’s the yoga version of “Simon Says”!). Use everyone’s imagination. Pretend to take a trip to a farm and practice all the yoga poses of the animals you see on the farm like a cow, dog, or cat. Make the animal sounds. If you don’t know a pose for a certain animal, like a pig, make it up! Pretend to roll in the mud. Sing “Old MacDonald.”

    Combine books, music, and yoga into your own StoryBook Yoga class using an engaging CD. Choose a book with lots of animals, such as “Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?: Begin with the “book” track on the CD, which instructs you to breath. Then do “book yoga” with the music. Read the book with your child and as you come to an animal for which there is music, just make up an animal pose. Just let the CD guide you. At the end of the book, play the relaxation song. Namaste!

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