YOGA for the SPECIAL CHILD ™
By Kathy Randolph, Certified Practitioner
Hatha yoga is an ancient set of physical and mental practices designed to bring the body, mind and breath into balance. In the physical postures, called asanas, we gain control of the body by increasing flexibility, balance, strength, and motor coordination while toning muscle and nerve groups and benefiting the organs and endocrine glands. In the breathing exercises, called pranayama, we learn to breathe fully and efficiently, increasing oxygenation of the brain, the release of toxins from the body, and clarity and focus of mind. Yoga was first taught one on one to individuals in excellent health. Today, we know that yoga provides benefits to those of all physical conditions and ages. Yoga for the Special ChildTM offers the benefits of yoga to infants and children, both typically developing and those with special needs.
In 1972, Sonia Sumar’s beautiful daughter Roberta was born with Down Syndrome. Already a yoga practitioner, Sonia began doing yoga with her child, whose motor coordination, physical strength and intelligence developed at an amazing rate. This led Sonia to seek her training as a yoga instructor, and to start teaching at a special education school. This was the beginning of Yoga for the Special ChildTM, a safe, effective and easy to follow program of yoga therapy to increase cognitive and motor skills and help integrate children with special needs into the home, school and workplace environment. The program includes:
The parent’s role as guide and inspriation for the child.
A step-by-step, integrated system of yoa poses designed to increase cognitive and motor skills in children with learning and developmental disabilities.
Specialized breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to improve concentration and reduce hyperactivity.
Four levels of learning are addressed and begin with children as young as two weeks old. The preparatory stage is for passive children who are unable to respond to the instructor. The inductive stage is suited for children who are beginning to show response to yoga stimulation. The interactive stage marks the beginning of direct, active participation by the child. The imitative stage is for children who can, or who are attempting to imitate yoga movements by the instructor or their parents. All group classes are inclusive, with children who are typically developing and those with a special needs diagnosis, grouped by developmental stage. Classes may be offered for parents and children together. Children whose parents carry on with the yoga routine at home see quicker and more far-reaching results.
Yoga for the Special ChildTM has grown from a single mother in Brazil doing yoga with her own daughter to a world-wide program of yoga therapy, providing infants, children and their parents a pleasurable way to improve the quality of their lives.
1. Sonia Sumar, Yoga for the Special Child, 1998