Yoga for the Special Child® in the Truckee Meadows

Reno, 2015 Continuing Education, Samuel Baugh and Sonia Sumar.  Samuel came all the way from the Bay Area to volunteer in our Teacher Training.

In 1998 Kathy Randolph saw an ad for the book Yoga for the Special Child in Yoga Journal and ordered it. It arrived out of the first printing in English, since it was written by Sonia Sumar in her native language Portuguese. Kathy read it in one weekend, and immediately signed up to take the Yoga for the Special Child training in July of 1999, the next available class. She started teaching her first Yoga for the Special Child private class two days after arriving home from the training, and had enough students to start group classes by October, 1999. In the meantime Holly Laughton took the training in September of 1999. She began teaching immediately upon her return. Stacy Gumfory-Esquibel took the training in 2001. All three teachers are still teaching in 2008, but more are needed.

Since that beginning in 1999, Yoga for the Special Child has been recognized as a valuable therapy by local parents, physical therapists, occupational therapists, doctors, and case workers for local agencies. Yoga for the Special Child is recognized as therapy by the State of Nevada, and families may be able to receive funding from Sierra Regional Center, Rural Regional Center, Washoe County Social Services, VSA, TruVista and others. Local schools, preschools, after school programs and day camps also offer Yoga for the Special Child in their classrooms. The demand for more classes, especially in after school time slots, has exceeded what three teachers can offer. Yoga for the Special Child has been taught in Reno, Sparks, Carson City, Fallon, Fernley, Gerlach and Colfax. Requests have also been received for classes in Truckee and Tahoe.

In order to meet the call for more private and group classes for local children and adults with special needs, Sonia Sumar, an internationally renowned yoga therapist and the creator of Yoga for the Special Child, brought her Basic Certification program to Reno for the first time in June of 2008. A class of 17 new teachers graduated as Certified Practitioners of Yoga for the Special Child. Six of these new teachers are from our area, and all of them are now teaching. Our new teachers are located in Reno, Sparks, Virginia City and Incline Village, allowing the program to reach students in a much larger area.

In 1999, Ian Zehner was the first Yoga for the Special Child student in Reno. Since then hundreds of children have been served, both in private and group classes at The Yoga Center in Reno, and at area preschools, schools and after school and summer day camp programs. Many of them still enjoy children’s classes, and some of them now continue their yoga practices in adult classes. Adults with special needs have attended classes at The Yoga Center and in various local facilities including Washoe Arc, High Sierra Industries, group homes, rehabilitation centers and clinics.

We are delighted to welcome our new Yoga for the Special Child teachers, and hope we never fail to serve a student because of time conflicts or full schedules again. We are actively seeking people from our area to take the June 2009 training and hope to see you there

Props Make It Possible – Yoga For Every Body

YOGA for EVERY body
“Props make it possible”

By Kathy Randolph, Certified Practitioner

A common misconception is that you have to be flexible to begin a yoga practice; the truth however, is that flexibility is a result, not a prerequisite – a very important distinction. You also gain strength, balance and coordination from the physical poses, and improved circulation and stress relief from the breathing exercises. Yoga really is for people of all ages, sizes and physical condition.

Many beginners benefit from the use of props. Props help with proper alignment, and provide support to the muscles, minimizing strain. A strap, a folded blanket, a block or a chair can allow a new student to do the poses safely and correctly right from the start. Here are some examples of the use of props in forward bends.

A classic pose is seated, legs straight out in front, bending forward from the hips (Figure 1).

This pose, with the addition of a folded blanket and a strap is easily accessible to the beginning student (Figure 2).

• The folded blanket is placed so the sitting bones are right on the blanket’s edge, tilting the pelvis forward and protecting the low back.
• The strap is looped around the feet with the ends held in each hand, providing the same tension as holding the feet directly. Stretch gently, then release and move up on the inhale.

If there are special low back concerns, a safe approach to the forward bend is lying on the back, either on the floor or on a bed, and stretch one leg at a time (Figure 3).

• Start by lying on the back, both knees bent and soles of feet on the floor.
• Bring the right knee toward the chest and put the strap around the arch of the foot, ends of the strap in each hand.
• Straighten the right leg, and draw it closer while exhaling. Release gently on the inhale and repeat with the breath. After gentle stretching, release and repeat on the other side.

If getting up from the floor presents problems, use a block or a chair, and do the pose standing (Figures 4 and 5).
• Stand in front of the prop and bend forward from the hips on the exhale.
• Place both hands on the block or chair and breathe, relaxing further into the stretch on the exhalation. After gentle stretching,bend the knees and inhale to move up to standing, lifting with the legs, not the back.


By design, yoga poses help us to achieve and maintain a full range of motion. The use of props will allow you to practice this ancient discipline while you gain the wonderful flexibility, strength, coordination and balance yoga can provide – for anybody!

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.

Yoga For The Special Child Kathy Randolph



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