Kids worldwide need the same things to thrive: food, clothing, shelter, confidence, security, and a sense of calm. However, no two children are able to receive these necessities in the same way. Some children blossom in routine while others crave variety. One child may require complete silence to relax while his sister needs constant ambient noise to settle down. Similarly, each child’s body has different challenges and strengths. Unlike other physical and recreational activities, yoga is uniquely suited to meeting each child where they are to develop and enhance the skills they already possess.
A complete Kids Yoga class should include breathing practice, a variety of postures presented in an imaginative way, and meditation time. This is especially true for a yoga class adapted for children with special needs, whether it be developmental delays, chronic disease, or cognitive and physical challenges. As yoga teachers, we strive to develop the whole child – their mind, body, and spirit. Rather than focusing on a disability or using a label, we recognize the child. An adaptive yoga program celebrates what any child can achieve and how they learn.
Physically, yoga builds strength and flexibility throughout the entire body. The poses promote endurance, coordination, balance, and body awareness. Kids also learn how to move their bodies through gross and fine muscle skills and motor planning. Plus, breath work teaches kids to feel their breath and use it to affect their mood positively.
An adaptive Kids Yoga class supports emotional and social growth, too. Because no postures are “wrong” and you can’t “win” a yoga class, kids are free to express themselves uniquely and playfully. Through yoga, children learn to find stillness through physical activity and breath. And children learn to be present, thankful, and kind to themselves and others. Additionally, the children (and their parents) are able to interact through play and shared experiences.
Evidence of yoga’s benefits is more than just anecdotal. Through neuroimaging and genomics technology, scientists have been allowed to measure physiological changes in greater detail. Researchers at Harvard, UCLA, and King’s College in London have found evidence supporting the use of yoga, meditation, and breath work to improve mental and physical well-being. Additionally, a study published in May in the medical journal PloS One showed that one session of relaxation-response practice was enough to enhance the expression of genes involved in energy metabolism and insulin secretion. At the same time, the expression of the genes linked to inflammatory response and stress was reduced. A study from NYU published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy found that yoga exercises help kids on the autism spectrum concentrate and focus, and improve their strength, motor coordination, and social skills.
Even though every child is unique and brings his/her own strengths and challenges to class, a Kids Yoga program is sure to benefit each child that rolls out a mat.
Want more? Check out these blogs about inclusion and adaptive yoga:
Yoga and Occupational Therapy: https://kiddingaroundyoga.com/blog/yoga-and-occupational-therapy-2/
Teaching Yoga to Kids with ADHD and Autism: https://kiddingaroundyoga.com/blog/kids-yoga-autism-adhd-accessible-inclusive/
You can also listen to an inspiring podcast about incorporating yoga into Special Needs classrooms: https://anchor.fm/kidding-around-yoga/episodes/Yoga-In-Schools-Part-3-How-Yoga-Can-Be-a-Powerful-Tool-in-Special-Education-e1jt21i
Like what you read here? There’s so much MORE to explore and learn with Kidding Around Yoga. Check out our website for our live and online teacher trainings, Yoga Alliance-approved 95-hour RCYT trainings, specialty online courses, original music, merchandise, podcast, and beyond! KAY even offers a 6-hour workshop designed to teach school educators and homeschool families how to bring yoga and meditation right into their classrooms (EduKAY) and an online course specifically for families to incorporate these practices into their family’s routine (Mindful Parenting).