Therapeutic Yoga | Healing & Reaching Potential
Photograph by Matthew Kane via Unsplash
I have been introducing Therapeutic Yoga into my work with children and have found it amazing. Connecting with kids with through breathing, sound and mindfulness has been a transforming experience. We all associate Yoga with ‘moves’ and although these are powerful, they are just one of eight ‘limbs’ of Yoga.
What fascinated me was the realization of how Yoga so wonderfully integrates some of the therapeutic interventions we use in Occupational Therapy such as Sensory Integration. Introducing Yoga as part of a sensory diet combines elements of movement, deep pressure and activation of the body sense through joint compressions and heavy muscle work. The activation of these senses contribute to changing the way a child interacts with their environment by increasing their ability to regulate, improving attention, increasing positive behavioural responses and improving motor coordination.
“When we are balanced we have greater emotional control and our body’s systems can work more effectively.”
If your child has Autism or ADHD their ability to self regulate may be severely compromised. They may be in a constant state of stress, and we might be too. This can present as a low or high arousal state.
When Yoga is practiced we produce a good brain chemical called serotonin which helps us cope with stress. Yoga can help to:
- Allow the immune system to heal
- Improve respiratory function
- Improve emotional control
- Improve motor planning and control
- Release tension
- Improve quality of sleep
Before we can help our children to engage, we must be regulated, and how do we do that?…. We breathe.
Take a moment to notice your breath, now close your mouth and breath in and out of your nose. Place a hand on your belly and allow it to expand on the in breath. Applying some pressure, guide your breath with your hand, pressing a little firmer on the out breath.
If your child is able, you can support them in doing this, they can lie or sit. Use a Yoga mat so they can have a defined space. Reduce distractions and breathe with them. Set a positive intention towards your child. Allow your child to breath in their own natural pattern.
“Practicing breathing exercises with your child will teach them a relaxation and mindfulness tool they can have for life.”
Breathing supports emotional regulation and increases our ability to cope with stress.
Lots of children like to use sound breath, (and adults too!!). This is where we make a repetitive sound such as Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. We practice this in sitting and we make the sound on the exhale as we lean forwards. Making sounds sends vibration through the body which is calming and organising. It also helps to lengthen our out breath, and therefore deepens breathing. Asking a child if they notice any differences in how their body feels can increase mindfulness in this exercise. Noticing sensations in the body is one way to introduce mindfulness which I have found especially useful when combined with breath work with anxious children.
I am at the start of my Yoga journey, and it is a pleasure to have shared this short piece with you. Peace, love and light.
Natalie is experienced in the field of intellectual disability and currently practices as a private clinician, providing community based services in a wide variety of settings including schools.
View Natalie’s practice listing on the OT Network
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