Yoga for People with Disabilities

Yoga for People with Disabilities

Imagine a calm room with zen music streaming from the speakers, and an instructor directs the people in the room to place their hands on the floor and their buttocks in the air.  You might recognize the pose as the downward dog, but it might take a moment to realize it’s not your typical adult yoga class.  Yoga instruction for children and adults with disabilities is increasingly in popularity.

Special needs experts agree that yoga activities make a positive impact on individuals with special needs.  These activities improve mobility, strength, and digestion for individuals with disabilities like cerebral palsy.  The success of yoga programs is catching the attention of parents, caregivers, and medical professionals.

Parents and caregivers of individuals with special needs understand the value of a child with cerebral palsy being able to sit up on his own.  The basic fundamentals of an activity like yoga require certain aspects, such as control of breathing and stamina.

For individuals with cerebral palsy, specialized yoga instructors will cradle the individual and move their arms and legs to help them relax.  The instructors will also ask individuals to touch their feel to the floor or lift their heads for a few seconds.  While these movements might seem trivial to the average person, they are major obstacles and successes for individuals with a disability.  These activities are not only for individuals with cerebal palsy, but also they are used for those with disabilities such as Down syndrome, autism, ADHD, or learning disabilities.

Yoga is often a slow and meditative process, so it helps these individuals slow down and increases attention and focus.  Yoga is empowering because it meets the individuals at their current level of functioning and moves forward towards meeting achievable goals; the limits of individuals are accepted, and with the help of the instructor, they work through those struggles.  The instructors use typical yoga poses such as the downward dog or cobra pose, and each one is adapted for a child’s needs or goals.

Parents of children with autism, ADHD, or anxiety indicate that yoga helps their children calm themselves down and creates better focus and following directions.  Yoga activities take place in specialized centers and are even being utilized in schools, all with the end goal of promoting wellness and improved functioning even outside the classroom.

Yoga for the Special Child is an international program developed in Evanston, Illinois by Sonia Sumar.  Initially developed to help babies with disabilities, the program has grown to a worldwide practice.  As the evidence of yoga’s benefits continues to expand, many similar programs are adapted for children and adults with disabilities.  There really is no limit to the scope of who can benefit from yoga.

Sources:

Chicago Tribune, Yoga offers benefits for people with special needs

Photo by familymwr

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Written by: Cara Batema See other articles by Cara Batema
About the Author:

Cara Batema is the editor of SpecialNeeds.com.  She has a background in writing and music therapy, and she has worked in individual and group settings with individuals with special needs.

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