Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Mom, I Can't Sit Still ... but I Can for Shavasana

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Mom, I Can't Sit Still ... but I Can for Shavasana

Article excerpt

I use an eye pillow? Can you dim the lights? Could you put on that music like last time? I like to wrap myself up in the mat like Dracula. Will you push on my eyes and pull my legs? These are just a few of the questions that I often hear as I complete a 45-minute session as a Yogakids facilitator. Although we have just engaged in a fun and, often, vigorous lesson plan incorporating various themes, such as the rainforest, marine biology, transportation, or a day at the circus or zoo, the children are in anticipation of their favorite part. Shavasana!

As an occupational therapist who has worked in school systems for over 20 years, I had always used yoga poses (or versions of them) as a modality of treatment. My rationale was to build core strength, endurance, and focusing abilities with the children on my caseload. In the last year, I became certified as a Yogakids facilitator (CYKF). As a CYKF, I am finding I am able to expand this modality to its outermost limits. Throughout my training and in my everyday practice, I've worked with a variety of children. Now as a CYKF, my current classes contain typical children as well as children with diverse challenges. A class may hold children with diagnoses such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), Asperger syndrome, Down syndrome, non-verbal learning disorder, cerebral palsy and others. Many of these children experience anxiety, sensory, attention, and focus issues in the course of daily life. Carrying those "imaginary backpacks filled with negative energy" can cause behavioral, sleep, and emotional responses in their lives.

The Yogakids program is different than just teaching kids' yoga asanas. Its mission is to educate the whole child. Marsha Wenig, the Yogakids founder, has stepped up the "yoga for children" craze to more than just exposure to this ancient art. Yogakids, Inc. is spreading its educational application with a solid basis in Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligence's theory. Considering the fact that the child with attention issues seem to prefer kinesthetic, visual, and tactile input, yoga seems to be a likely activity for success. Tapping into movement and proprioceptive (heavy work) activities, literally, helps "feed" the child with the necessary input needed to motor plan, organize, focus, and attend. Lesson plans can carry sensorial input, but it also may eliminate sensory input to provide the child the opportunity to not feel so overwhelmed.

Often children with attention challenges need many accommodations or modifications to access their curriculums in school. Participation in leisure activities in the community or maintenance of social friendships requires a conscious effort to support the child in these pursuits. Yogakids can provide an opportunity for the child to have a noncompetitive, social, physical outlet for energy and stress reduction. The Yogakids class celebrates each child's abilities and knowledge base in a flexible, yet structured, environment. Consider a yoga studio--soft lights, a designated mat for each and every participant as well as a specific plan and amount of time for the class. These are all are contributing factors toward the success of a child with challenges being successful with yoga. As I teach the asanas to the young people in my classes week after week, I notice improvement in the child's ability to follow the breathing patterns and the sequence of the movement flows. Mastery evolves on a myriad of levels, such as following the opening and closing routines, learning and performing the postures, participating in a novel, grasping the exciting, but structured, routine and finally experiencing a warm, wonderful feeling of relaxation at the end of the session through Shavasana.

A few years ago, I heard Dr. Russell Barkley speak of executive skill dysfunction and its relationship to ADD. Often children with this diagnosis need frame working or scaffolding to initiate, sustain, and complete a task. …

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