The thing about teaching yoga for kids, especially kids with special needs, is that each child is totally unique. And so is their yoga.
Yoga has become part of our mainstream social experience in the last decade or so, and we see images of people doing yoga everywhere. The person doing yoga usually looks the same. She (it's almost always a woman) is doing a well known yoga pose, like Warrior 2 or Downward Dog, or some impossible looking pose. Therefore, that, we think, is what yoga looks like.
But what is yoga? Yoga is an ancient tradition that means to "yoke" or unite the mind and body. This is achieved through the breath and through linking the breath to physical movement. A complete yoga practice includes the five movements of the spine: Flexion, Extension, Side bend, Twist & Inversion, linked to the breath and done with awareness. That's it. That's yoga. It's all customized from there.
For many kids, yoga does not look like the poses in the magazine. It looks like their yoga. It looks like simple movements with their breath. It might look like rolling around the floor. It might be blowing bubbles. But it is yoga.
The goals and the benefits are the same. Maybe eventually it will build into a 30 minute or hour long practice with all the traditional poses. Maybe not. It doesn't really matter.
Linking body, mind and breath. Increasing awareness, mindfulness, calm. This is yoga. Not all yoga looks the same, it doesn't have to.
We all know the importance of a few good, deep breaths. Even without knowing the science behind it, or practicing yoga (breath work in yoga is known as pranayama, literally "breath control"), we have all heard the conventional wisdom to take a deep breath when stressed, or before reacting to a triggering event. This is very good advice.
But did you know that if calm is what you're looking for, your exhale is important than the inhale? And that by controlling the length of your exhale, you can create calm?