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Jazuela's image

Jazuela Wall

Yoga teacher

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Yoga for children with Special Educational Needs - what are the benefits and how does it work?

'I am not flexible enough to do yoga.' 'I cannot sit still long enough to meditate.' 'I do not have enough upper body strength for yoga.' 'Yoga is too slow paced.'

Ever caught yourself or others saying one of these phrases?

Yoga is so much more than the physical asanas (poses) that people may assume. Yoga is as much for your mind, as it is for your body. Yoga is a way of being.

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Yoga is as much for your mind, as it is for your body. Yoga is a way of being."

Yoga is as much for your mind, as it is for your body. Yoga is a way of being."

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When people ask 'is yoga for me?' my answer is that yoga is for everyone. Yoga has something to give to us all. Whether it be calming, organising, energising, finding peace or challenging themselves, both physically and mentally.

Yoga has been used historically, and is currently practiced, all over the world. Despite the ancient teachings of yoga, science has only recently begun to prove it's benefits.

Some of the many benefits associated with yoga include:

Research into the benefits of yoga for children have found that yoga maintains and improves mental health (Khalsa et al., 2012 & Noggle et al., 2012), improves classroom behaviour in those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (Koeing et al., 2012), increases sustained attention and discrimination function in those with ADHD (Chou & Huang, 2017), increases attention and decreases hyperactivity in those with ADHD ( Abadi & Venkatesan, 2008) and improves mood, anxiety, self-esteem and memory (Ferreira-Vorkapic, 2015).

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Yoga can be used by children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities to regulate their physical body and their emotions."

Yoga can be used by children to regulate their physical body and their emotions."

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Yoga can be used by children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities to regulate their physical body and their emotions. It can improve organising and concentration. Yoga can bring children into a state in which they are more ready to learn and have an improved sense of mental wellbeing.

Physically, yoga can build strength and muscle tone, improve proprioceptive awareness and allows the children to connect to their bodies in a way that they may not have before.

Additionally, yoga provides a different way for children to interact with others and themselves. It can create a space, without pressure or expectation, in which the child can explore.

All asanas (poses) can be adapted to different needs and the children can be given as much or as little support as they need to perform the poses. However, a yoga session is so much more than just a sequence of poses.

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All asanas (poses) can be adapted to different needs and the children can be given as much or as little support as they need to perform the poses."

All asanas (poses) can be adapted to different needs as they need to perform the poses."

Neo Walk Blog Middle Image

Sound, massage and breathing exercises are incorporated into this therapeutic approach – based on what the individual or group needs at that moment in time.

Sound may be the humming of voices, music, instruments or audible breath. Massage may include teaching the child self-massage or finding acupressure points which work for them. Various breathing activities and movements can be explored to help the child to regulate their breathing or encourage deeper breaths.

Breathing is one of the single most important aspects of human existence, yet many of us are not breathing to our full potential. Many of us breathe through our mouths or suck in our stomachs when we inhale. This not only affects our oxygen intake and our immunity, but can affect our spinal and jaw structure.

I believe, breathing is the most important part of the yoga practice. If I spend a session with a child simply listening to my audible breathing and their breath begins to slow down, I know that I have made a positive impact. Equally that child has also taught me how to find peace and stillness.

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Breathing is one of the single most important aspects of human existence, yet many of us are not breathing to our full potential."

Many of us are not breathing to our full potential."

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I have learnt to view yoga as a shared exchange, as the children teach us too. They teach us that yoga is for anybody. Yoga does not discriminate or judge, it meets us with curiosity and adapts to our needs. Over the international lockdown, it has even been adapted to be delivered via video call!

Let's give everyone the opportunity to experience the light of yoga and share that light so that we can all shine.

Want to try yoga with your child or class?

As a passionate professional recognising the benefits of yoga for children with special needs, I founded Soleil Salutations, that offers group and 1:1 sessions within schools and centres, in addition to providing 1:1 yoga for children within their home. I work with parents, schools and other professionals to offer yoga to children with SEND.

For more information, you can visit my website at www.soleilsalutations.com or contact me directly at soleilsalutations@gmail.com.

About the author

Jazuela has an MSc Applied Behaviour Analysis, BSc Psychology and has been supporting children with Special Educational Needs since 2014. Jazuela worked as an ABA Tutor, Learning Support Assistant and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENDCo) before completing her yoga training with Special Yoga.

References

Khalsa, S.B.S., Hickey-Schultz, L., Cohen, D., Steiner, N. and Cope, S., 2012. Evaluation of the mental health benefits of yoga in a secondary school: A preliminary randomized controlled trial. The journal of behavioral health services & research, 39(1), pp.80-90.

Noggle, J.J., Steiner, N.J., Minami, T. and Khalsa, S.B.S., 2012. Benefits of yoga for psychosocial well-being in a US high school curriculum: a preliminary randomized controlled trial. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 33(3), pp.193-201.

Chou, C.C. and Huang, C.J., 2017. Effects of an 8-week yoga program on sustained attention and discrimination function in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. PeerJ, 5, p.e2883.

Abadi, M. S., Madgaonkar, J., & Venkatesan, S. (2008). Effect of yoga on children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Psychological Studies-University of Calicut, 53(2), 154.

Ferreira-Vorkapic, C., Feitoza, J.M., Marchioro, M., Simões, J., Kozasa, E. and Telles, S., 2015. Are there benefits from teaching yoga at schools? A systematic review of randomized control trials of yoga-based interventions. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015.

Resources:

specialyoga.org.uk/

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Jazuela Wall

Yoga teacher

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