When parents think about exercise and development for their children, they may not initially think about yoga, relegating it as an activity for adults. Instead, team sports, gymnastics or karate classes are more likely to come to mind.
However, yoga can be very beneficial for all children, whether they have special needs or not. Like more traditional exercises, yoga promotes a healthy, active lifestyle and will help keep your child from becoming overweight – a serious problem that faces many children in the United States.
Yoga has other benefits as well, like improved posture, which is good for all children. Along with the physical benefits of yoga, it can also help your child develop mentally.
Benefits of Yoga for Special Needs Children
Children with developmental disorders like Autism, Down syndrome and Cerebral Palsy can benefit from doing yoga regularly. Children with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and ADHD can also benefit from participating in yoga classes.
Yoga Promotes Body Awareness
For children with disorders that affect their physical growth, yoga can help to promote body awareness. For many children, this can be a difficult issue, and more traditional athletic activities may be unsafe. Instead, low-impact exercises like yoga are preferred.
Yoga classes for children can even start at a young age, and many believe that even infants and toddlers can benefit from the body awareness that yoga can provide.
Yoga Improves Concentration
Children with attention deficit disorder, ADHD and other learning disabilities can also benefit from the improved concentration that regularly participating in yoga can bring.
While it may take some time for you to see signs of improved concentration, all doctors agree that exercise is important for children with learning disabilities.
In its simplest form, yoga is just exercise however, the breathing techniques and poses may help improve concentration more than other activities.
Teaching Yoga to Children with Special Needs
If you’re interested in teaching yoga to your special needs child, there are a few different ways that you can do it. Many parents mix techniques, especially if they have a busy schedule.
When you first start doing yoga with your child, taking a class designed specifically for children with special needs and parents can be beneficial.
There are also classes designed specifically for children with special needs that don’t involve the parents to the same extent.
Finding a class in your area shouldn’t be too difficult. Believe it or not, yoga for special needs children is pretty popular because of its myriad benefits.
After taking some classes and learning the basics, you may want to start doing yoga at home with your child in addition to taking a class once per week.
Once you know the basic poses, all you really need is a yoga mat and a room where you don’t have a lot of distractions. Many parents simply choose to move some furniture out of the way in the living room or family room.
Basic Physical Exercise
Every growing child needs to get exercise whether they have special needs or not. Exercise is essential for maintaining overall health.
While certain activities like swimming or low-impact aerobics can also benefit certain children, yoga doesn’t pose the same risks as those activities.
Yoga is also an activity that you can do anywhere with your child, unlike swimming or low-impact aerobics. All you need is a yoga mat and a basic understanding of poses and techniques.
Can All Special Needs Children Do Yoga?
Before you enroll your child in yoga classes, there are some things you may need to consider.
While most children can benefit from yoga, children with certain conditions like Cerebral Palsy may have to move at a slower pace, and the more strenuous parts of yoga may be off limits.
Take some time to talk with your child’s instructor about their condition before they start taking classes so the instructor will be aware of things your child may have a difficult time doing.
Yoga can be incredibly beneficial for children and adults, whether they have special needs or not. Getting your child involved in yoga classes early may be able to significantly help them throughout their lives.
You should also talk with your child’s doctor before they begin any sort of exercise routine. Yoga is a low-impact exercise that most children and adults can do, but it’s always best to get your child’s doctor’s approval first.
Marcela De Vivo is the founder of Gryffin Media, freelance writer, and the happy mother of three. Her articles vary on topic from technology to creating safe spaces and valuable routines to help children grow mentally and emotionally, as well as stay fit.