Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Yoga and Physical Literacy


For decades now, the Western world has turned to yoga as a sort of navel-gazing exercise, one that enhances the body as much as the mind.

So it's no wonder that instructors are seeing major benefits in yoga for children with special needs.

"The beautiful thing about yoga is you can choose how much information you get," says Claudia Crowe, an occupational therapist in Chicago specializing in yoga for children with special needs at OYT (occupationalyogatherapy.com).

What Crowe means by "information" is the amount of stimulation, through a variety of yoga poses and breathing techniques, one allows to their senses.

Imagine, for example, one of yoga's well-known pose-the tree pose.

Balancing on one leg while pushing the other against it creates a push-pull relationship. This "isometric" relationship may not be all that apparent to children with special needs, but it stimulates their sensory system, improving balance, strength and control.

Today, parents are turning to yoga for children with a range of special needs, from Down syndrome to autism to undiagnosed developmental delays.

Crowe says many of her students also have attention deficit disorder.

As with other fitness regimens, yoga is tailored on an individual basis, targeting strengths and weaknesses.

Crowe says evidence of success is clear: Yoga empowers children with special needs, helping them "trust" their bodies that oftentimes don't do what they want them to do.

Beyond the physical benefits, yoga's introspective side helps kids "learn personal insight," she says.

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