Yoga is becoming more popular every day – not just for adults, but for children as well. Perhaps more important, for special needs children, it can be used as an alternative therapy. Yoga can help increase concentration, flexibly, and strength. It can also develop coordination and reduce stress and anxiety. We can’t forget the value yoga can have to help a child become more aware of their body. There are a lot of benefits of yoga for special needs children and it is important to consider them all before deciding if yoga is the right fit for the child. We recognize that your child may not be able to participate in yoga based on their current condition, but for those that are able or able to try, it can be very helpful. It’s important to note, though, that before you begin any exercise with your child, you should consult with a medical professional regarding your child’s health and ability.
The first and most obvious benefit of yoga is the increased flexibility and muscle strength. Children with special needs often have tension and rigid muscle tone and yoga can address this. Stretching the body can help the child get rid of the tension, while holding poses will increase strength for those able to practice regularly. These improvements will not happen after the first practice, though, and will take a lot of practices and time to see improvements. As a result, it’s important that both you and your child not get discouraged immediately.
The less obvious benefit is increased concentration. While this one will take time to develop, over time it may be more noticeable. The combination of breathing techniques and poses helps children clear their minds and focus on the activity at hand. Eventually, children without certain limits may be able to transfer that concentration learning to other things such as school.
The next benefit is that children can develop coordination. Yoga is made up of interacting movements and you are often in and out of the same poses. This interaction and repetition can help children develop their coordination. Children can gain a better understanding on how to master their own movements, important as it can give children more confidence (another benefit). Developing coordination will take time just like the other benefits, so it’s important to stay true to the practices.
Yoga can also reduce a child’s stress and anxiety. Children with special needs may experience more anxiety than other children and this is one way to help decrease it. There are a lot of breathing exercises that come with yoga and they can be done independently or within poses. When a child learns how to use these techniques, they can apply it when feeling anxious and therefore make it a coping mechanism. This comes in handy, not just in childhood, but adulthood as well. A child will have to practice yoga regularly to develop the breathing techniques, but once mastered, it can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Increased body awareness brings all the benefits together. This benefit works by combining the benefits discussed above. A child who practices yoga regularly can understand their body more. Children will not only have the opportunity to learn about different part of the body, but they may also develop an understanding of how their own body works. They can start realizing what stretches feels the best for them and how to fully relax their bodies. Barring certain limitations, they will be able to use the breathing techniques to fully fill their chest and lungs and understand what it means to actually breathe deep. The great benefit of increase body awareness can help a child truly understand their body and know how to accommodate for it.
Yoga will not create benefits right off the bat and is, instead, a developed process. This, ultimately, means that children will have to practice on a regular basis to feel the effects of it. While this may take a while, it is completely worth it as your child become more flexible and develop better coordination. It can also increase concentration while decreasing stress and anxiety. Yoga also allows children to develop body awareness and truly understand their body. Once a child knows their body, they can begin to focus on areas of improvement or know what’s best (poses, stretching, breathing techniques, etc.) for their body. Letting a special needs child practice yoga opens the door to a number of benefits and could become a regular part of his or her therapy regiment. If you have any other benefits that a child can experience from yoga, please submit them through a comment.
If you have any questions about Cerebral Palsy or would like to know more about how yoga could benefit your child, don’t hesitate to call us at (800) 692-4453 or fill out our contact form on Facebook or our website.