Desiring peace is a constancy in yoga therapy for special needs children. As a society we have claimed peace as our ultimate mission. We focus on calm, balance, inner tranquility or a community, country, and world free of battle. You may have painted and embellished a detailed picture within your consciousness that illuminates a greater good for peace. For the family of a special needs child the vision of peace may be as simple as a relaxed meal, a progressively calm bedtime or a play activity free of impulsive outburst. For these families desiring peace is a unified experience, finding peace may separate even the strongest constellations.
I have observed many inharmonious interractions among special needs children and their parents and siblings. There are varying dynamics depending on the capabilities of the special needs child and the mother and father’s parenting styles. Complicate this with neurological disorder, communication deficit, attentional issues and sensory sensitivities and you can have an explosive context in which to excavate for peace. To further complicate the search for harmony, the behavior of a special needs child can vary significantly, with no contextual variance, and these inconsistencies can place greater stress on family members.
How do we enter this scenario as a professional and look beyond counseling, therapies and medications? Perhaps a sampling of yoga can be that glimmer of hope the family members are wishing for. The calm that drifts through the body, the balance that brings one back to core as a result of oxygenation and altered brain chemicals, could actually be the elements that lift the spirit for whatever may come. Over time, an awakening consciousness can help one to cultivate loving acceptance for what is present while trusting they are given everything they need. Does yoga therapy promise a cure, no, is it a practice that offers a calmer perspective of each and every situation, yes, it is possible. For if we cannot cure symptoms of a diagnosis, we may have a better outcome if all members of the family shift into their most positive being to more calmly, lovingly and possibly, more PEACEFULLY, work with the situations presented to them.
I wish to thank those of you who entered the drawing for the CD, “Guided Meditation for Children – I am the Breeze”. There were five winners, (I know I said three, but I am a softie). If there were not people like all of you, those that show interest, we would lack the audience we so treasure when we wish to create and share our expression.
If you need an audience in the future, let me know. I love experiencing how each of the whole share their gifts. Aren’t we amazing?
I am the Breeze is a guided meditation CD produced to light imagination and support inner creativity for children eleven-years-old and up. Each track delivers a positive message within a story and is enhanced with sounds and music. The short meditations provide an oasis for conscious breathing and an opportunity to relax.
Versatile in design, the listener may enjoy one story or the entire sequence of stories. I am the Breeze can be used at the end of a yoga class; as a mini break in the classroom; to enlighten prior to a creative art, writing or drama program; or, simply for unwinding at home
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Some recent reviews
on Amazon: “[I am the Breeze] relaxes me and allows my mind to release all the clutter and thoughts of the day. I find it an exceptional meditation enhancer. I think these meditations are creative, inspiring and a wonderful teaching tool for any age.” read more >>
on CDBaby: “I have tried to come up with stories on my own when my daughters and I practice yoga together. I am just not that creative. My girls love the CD! They are so relaxed after listening to the stories and I get to relax with them! Thank you, Nancy!” read more >>
Nancy Williams is an award-winning author, a certified speech pathologist, experienced, registered yoga instructor, ERYT-500, who provides therapy to children and young adults.
Visit Nancy’s website: www.yogatherapy4children.com
As a pediatric therapist I am aware that many special needs clients do not experience enough time pushing up into puppy (cobra), nor do they remain very long in four point (cat). The result is upper extremity weakness with poor posturing and limited stability to use their arms. This is how I use yoga to help develop shoulder stability and upper arm strength:
- Raise those arms up over head for mantra and mudra
- Spend more time with horizontal arms using arms up for count of 10 prior to sitting spinal twist
- play dog chases the cat and have the children make the appropriate animal sounds to lengthen the pose
- in hands and knees always use wide spread finger placement
- half moon, volcano, warrior, and triangle use arms up against gravity to build shoulders, arms.
- table pose, with an elaborate description of the fare, encourages longer use of shoulders and arms for weight bearing and thus strengthening.
- Use arms out, up, down and around when chanting and singing.
- plank builds arm strength as well as trunk support
- cobra is wonderful to encourage shoulder and arm strength and hold it a bit longer while hissing
- butterfly breathing works arms against gravity to encourage stamina of oth shoulder/arms
- arms away from body while ringing ting shaw bells, blowing bubbles and when using mudras
- Take Namaste out into the world, moving it away from your body and spreading it with your arms brought from midline out to side as if sharing.
- HAVE FUN!
Nancy Williams, ERYT-500, Speech/language pathologist
I love Garland pose! I love to move my body down into the squat and balance. I imagine it is because it releases any pain in my lower back and gently stretches my achilles. Over time it has strengthened my feet and legs and has opened my hips. It is wonderful to lower myself near the floor to clean up a spill, tie a child’s shoelace or steady myself to take a photograph.
Why do children like Garland pose or squat? Well, let’s see…
- It brings you into eye level with your cat or dog
- It poses you like a frog and you can jump like one too
- It stretches your toes like a duck’s webbed feet (yoga toes)
- It is the perfect height to maneuver under a card table tent
- It prepares you for a perfect tuck when performing a cannonball off a diving board
- It strengthens your legs and warms up your knees for peddling a bicycle
- It is an easy transition into standing and running, if you need a quick get away
- It is excellent for hiding
- It prepares you for the perfect launch as a rocket
- It is wonderful for playing in the sandbox, making mud pies and inspecting a small bug, all without getting debris in your shorts
- it strengthens your legs for pumping a swing
- it is the ideal posture for jumping out from behind furniture to scare someone
- It is wonderful for balance when looking through the knot in a fence or through a keyhole
- It allows you to keep your bottom off the cold ground when roasting a marshmallow
- It is excellent technique for selecting a lure or baiting a hook for fishing
- Gee, it is yoga and KIDS LOVE YOGA!
I knew this book was creative and special when I observed the Author’s packaging. The rainbow address label embellished the brown paper wrapping that also housed two ladybug stickers. The book itself is printed on recycled paper and was sweetly wrapped in a biodegradeable bag. I love this attention to detail and going the extra distance to present your passions.
“Love is the Color of a Rainbow”, written by Kathy Parra, tells a tale of a mother and her daughter, Willow, and their special walk in nature. This walk is embellished with color because Willow, who is blind, asks her mother “tell me what a rainbow looks like?”. Each color of the rainbow is experienced through touch, audition, aroma or taste before Willow relates the experience with a feeling. Green is gentle, red is full of life and the very shape of the rainbow is learned by tracing the arc in the pattern of a garden snail’s shell.
It is enjoyable learning how Willow’s mother teaches her daughter deeper meanings of nature without the use of outer vision. It is touching how she expresses to her daughter what a rainbow looks like. The colorful illustrations by Candace Keach compliment the story and bring each detail to life.
Nancy Williams, Author, Yoga Therapy for Every Special Child
I have a ball doing yoga and it is also fun! Using small hand held balls in yoga takes the focus into playful games while accomplishing the same stretches and postures. We are sharing that fun with you !
- In straight leg sitting place a ball on your lap and roll it to your toes as you slowly move into forward bend. Roll the ball back to your lap as you slowly sit up in straight back sitting.
- Sitting in butterfly place the ball between your feet. Scoop under your legs and keep the ball between your feet as you balance in flower.
- Place the ball between your hands in Namaste and move your arms up into volcano, balance the ball between hands as you bend into sitting half moon, now to the other side.
- Pass the ball “behind” you, hold it in your “right” hand, now your “left”. Place the ball “on” your shoulder and “under” your leg.
- Place the ball in front of you on the mat and with your fingers walk the ball around you, passing it to the other hand when halfway behind you. Now take it in the other direction.
- Show me the ball that is the color of the ocean, the color of a strawberry, now the color of grass.
- sitting criss-cross place the ball in your lap and fold forward in yoga mudra. You are now an oyster hiding your pearl. Slowly come up in sipping breath.
- Sitting in a circle, at the count of three pass the ball to the person on your right. Reverse, pass the ball to the person on your left. (excellent for rhythm and timing)
- Begin with the ball between your hands in Namaste and extend your arms in front of you. Hold in midline and count to twenty. Bring the ball back into Namaste.
- Continue to have a ball! Nancy Williams
My sister has recently joined our blogging community here on Wordpress. I announced here, the release of her book on yoga for the special needs child in 2009. She has continued to offer workshops, lectures and demonstrations for educators, physical and speech therapists, doctors and parents of special children. She also shares with her private clients, helping them to grow and experience the gifts that Yoga can offer them.
School is out and it is time to begin your summertime activities. There may be time to include a short daily activity of yoga. Remember that any length of time pursuing this calming, organizing and centering practice, can result in improved focus, attention, oxygenation throughout the body, increased levels of Gabba, longer and stronger muscles, and a warm sense of all is right with my world!
Grab the beach towels and be sure to place them threads up. Take a look at these ideas and add a few to your already favorite asana flow, or follow the short, balanced chakra flow below.
- Three part breath – breathe in through your nose and watch your upper chest rise as it inflates, watch your heart spot inflate, and 3rd, watch your diaphragm expand. Notice these parts of your chest deflate as you release the breath slowly. This breath will resemble a wave rolling in from the ocean with your breath slow and deep.
- Hold a Conch to your ear and listen. Describe what you hear.
- In standing, squinch your toes as if you are digging them into wet sand.
- Point first your right toe to check the temperature of the water. You will be in a modified tree pose to do this and balancing on the left leg. Repeat with the left foot.
- Move into bird pose with wings back and up on tip toes. Slowly transition down into chair pose bringing your back stretched arms over your knees. Then move back up on tip toes and arms forward, over head as if to take a dive into the water. This transition is smooth, with arms moving slowly through the poses.
- Slowly open your spine with helicopter pose (see page 104 in Yoga Therapy for Every Special Child)
- Move into sitting and do a spinal twist (pg. 84 in YTFESC) Be sure as you twist to apply sun protection lotion of a high spf to the arm and shoulder behind you.
- Glide into forward bend (pg.66 YTFESC) and brush the sand off your legs. Breathe into upright sitting while doing sipping breath. Sipping breath is three short and quick sips of breath as you rise from the forward bend. Once in sitting slowly release the entire breath. Be sure to discuss what smoothy you were sipping, pineapple, mango or coconut are good choices for summertime ( :
- Criss-cross legs and do a game of Criss-Cross Cranberry Sauce. Begin with hands on knees and say “criss”, cross arms to place hands on the alternate knee and say “cross”. Repeat this with hands on knees for the sauce you choose and then cross arms and place hands on alternate knees and say “sauce”. Be sure to use many varieties of sauce (ie, BBQ, chocolate, tomato, alfredo, blueberry, hot, taco) Focus on sauces that might be a part of a summertime cook-out.
- Boat pose is next and be sure to get your little motors going by doing a raspberry. I have to sneak in a little oral-motor, no pun intended! ( :
- End this little flow with savasana. You may wish to use cloth picnic napkins for eyebags. This is the perfect time to use “I am the Breeze ” meditation off of the newly released Guided Meditation for Children - I am the Breeze CD.
- Closing chant with the om mudra on your knees (pg.131 YTFESC) Follow directions for chant sequence.
- Enjoy tactile fun with the new found focus from yoga. With a storage container of sand you can; Sift through sand to find objects such as shells, softened beach glass, or tiny starfish or sand dollars. Categorize the found objects. Write with your finger and make an energy spiral, the symbol for OM and write your name.
- Most importantly, have fun!