When most people who have ever taken yoga think of a typical class, I would bet that they think of a nice studio, yoga mats aligned in neat rows, soft, earthy music and a nice ambience. The class would likely have a clear beginning, middle and end and include such components as poses, breath work, and/or meditation. The students would remain on their yoga mats and follow the directions of the teacher. Afterwards, students would roll up their yoga mats, return any props, and the session would end.
But when working with kids with special needs, yoga sessions may not contain such structure. In order to maintain interest, increase participation and create something memorable, it is sometimes necessary to enter their world. Yoga poses that may be familiar to you as down dog, warrior I or chair pose, become renamed from the world of Jedi’s, trains and fighter jets. Fantastical new poses are created and other poses take on a new life as they are literally translated. Tree pose, for instance finds real branches. Cats in cat pose meow across the room then stop to bathe themselves. These are the scenarios that bring yoga to life for some kids. And it is inside of the imagination of these kids, that the goals of your yoga session can realized. You’re doing Yoga?! Yep, the best kind of yoga.
So what is a successful yoga session? That answer depends on the child you are working with and their individual goals. But in general, if the child has participated with or without assistance, then that session was successful. Being able to assume a pose independently or associate a pose with a given name are some other ways of seeing success and progress. Over time, you may find that these kids are beginning to internalize some of the teachings you have brought them. Yoga may suddenly pop up in conversation or you may see behavioral changes. A child who initiates deep breathing because he is anxious; a child who begins holding poses for longer periods of time; a child who begins to do some yoga poses with his mom; a child who begins to verbalize insight into their own behavior. These examples are certainly bigger measures of success that take time, patience, and support from the child’s family in order to reach. But as I continue to work with kids with special needs, I remain constantly surprised and amazed at the heights these kids can reach.
Love & Light
“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen, and thinking why nobody has thought.” –Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
“The hardest thing about reality is returning to it after an hour inside your child’s mind.” –Robert Brault