Nirodhaḥ Yoga Blog
Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.
If you want to learn yoga, you might start out (as I did) looking up yoga poses online, getting a book on yoga, or even attending a class for beginners. A few decades ago, it might have been difficult to find a yoga class nearby and so, whatever kind of class you found, well…that’s what you got.
These days, there are so many options, the problem is now one of overwhelm. “Which kind of yoga should I do?” “How should I start practicing yoga?” “What is the best kind of yoga for me?” are all questions that arise from beginners approaching our studio.
The truth is, do whatever kind of yoga makes you feel best and that you can do consistently. As I mentioned, I started practicing yoga with poses I found online and in books. Eventually, my curiosity brought me to classes. Finally, I met my guru, who has taught me what yoga is really about. The process unfolded naturally over time.
With kids of all ages returning to school, we are reminded of the importance of continual learning and education. One of the things we love most at 5KY is bringing yoga into schools. Although what the kids learn in their classrooms about math, literature, history, and science is essential, yoga brings an education on something slightly different.
Whereas our schools educate our children’s bodies and minds, yoga nurtures their hearts. This is why bringing yoga into the classroom is so important. Yoga for children is not a type of play but a true education. In the method we use, we are not simply teaching our kids cute animal poses or telling a story with yoga poses interspersed.
When taught correctly, this method of children’s yoga is a serious practice that can teach children how to calm themselves, regulate their emotions, and tune into the messages that their body, heart, and mind transmit. It works on all aspects of the child. Not just the physical or even mental aspects, but their spirit - their heart - as well.
We are starting to understand that it is not just the IQ that matters. There are multiple types of intelligence that we ought to be developing. Yoga works the mind and body, yes. But it disciplines the body to be calm and the mind to be silent, so that the heart can speak.
When we teach our kids emotional intelligence - empathy, compassion, wisdom - we prepare them to live in a world filled with other beings and all the joys and challenges inherent in that. This world, rich with the experiences of loving others, is what I want to prepare my child for.
But we have all been children before and retain (deeply buried as it may be) some of that childlike wonder and vulnerability. Yoga is a gift to that inner child, as it nurtures the emotional intelligence that this world so desperately needs.
So I’d like to give a different kind of primer on yoga. Not one like I sought out when I first began; full of flashy poses and not much substance. I’d like to suggest some tips for the beginner that I wish I would have received when I started practicing yoga. This is a primer for beginners on the heart of yoga.
Wondering what Yoga for the Special Child Basic 1 is like? Who can take the program? What will participants be prepared for after taking YSC? Check out this video, which runs down the basics.
Yoga for the Special Child Basic 1 starts Sunday! There's still time to register, but we're close to capacity. So better sign up, if you're planning to join us next week.
Also, join us July 19th at 7PM for a Satsang (community gathering) with Sonia Sumar, who created the Yoga for the Special Child method.
Hi, my name is Erin Haddock, I’m with Five Keys Yoga here in Chicago, Illinois. And this summer we’re hosting an unbelievable training with Sonia Sumar, who created the yoga for the special child method and wrote the book “Yoga for the Special Child”. She created this method for her daughter Roberta, who is born with down syndrome and now travels around the world, bringing this program to people who want to learn how to teach kids with special needs yoga.
So I thought I would make this video for our participants who are arriving in about a week as well as people who might still be on the fence about what to expect during the program. So this program runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, the 15th through the 20th. And at the completion of the program you’ll be given a certificate of completion for I believe is the 48 hours that you attend. After you attend this program, if you wish, you can attend Basic 2. And if you are a yoga teacher or become one, you can use these two trainings to become registered with yoga alliance as a certified children's yoga instructor.
However, the training isn’t open just for yoga teachers. In fact, we have many parents, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, special education teachers as well as yoga teachers and people who just want to learn how to teach kids yoga. In fact, that's how I started, I wasn't a therapist, I wasn't a parent or a teacher. I just had this desire to learn how to make yoga accessible for people with special needs.
When I took my first training with Sonia my entire perspective changed, not only about how I practice yoga but about what yoga really means, what it is. It completely changed the way that I look at the world. And I'm so excited for these people who are coming in next week for the first time meeting Sonia and learning about their own bodies and minds.
During the training you will be prepared to evaluate new students as well as specific techniques for working with children who might have limited mobility or limited attention span. And the absolute highlight of the program is the opportunity to see Sonia work with three students as demo students, it's a really special part of the program that all the participants love.
So we’re hosting the training here at Five Keys Yoga. I would love to see you here, either this year or another year, when we host the Yoga for the Special Child program again.
Thank you. Namaste.
You might think mindfulness and meditation are only for adults, but kids and teens can also experience great benefits from these practices. All you need to teach these skills are an appropriate approach and a patient attitude. Parents should practice these exercises with their kids. This helps them see that even adults need to work on calming down, and reinforces that this is a life-long practice. Practicing together also builds a deep connection between you and your child.
Most of these exercises are done sitting and preferably with the eyes closed (except for the raisin and walking meditations). In each of these exercises, start by preparing your child to relax. Depending on your child's age and ability, a few gentle stretches can make the body feel more comfortable. Make sure where you are meditating is free from distractions and feels cozy. If it's appropriate, dim the lights. Ask your child to come into a comfortable position sitting, standing or lying down, depending on which meditation you are practicing. Almost all of these practices are appropriate for both kids and teens.
As with all mindfulness exercises, it is best not to practice with expectations for how (or how long) your child will meditate. Let them develop their practice gradually - start with a few seconds for young or restless kids, and encourage them by praising what they've accomplished. Eventually, they will come to enjoy the peaceful feeling and will meditate longer, naturally. At that point, you might encourage your child to describe how they feel after meditating.
If your child gets frustrated, let them know it is normal for thoughts to wander away from where we want them. You might even throw in a personal example. That's what meditation is all about. It's why we practice! To learn to bring our thoughts back under control.
Exercises adapted from Yoga for the Special Child and Yoga for Teens.
Yoga for the Special Child Basic 1 program begins in Evanston in just over a month! This week-long training is taught by Sonia Sumar, creator of the Yoga for the Special Child® method. Sonia has been teaching this method to kids for over forty years and now brings her training to all corners of the world. We are so lucky to have her in our own backyard.
YSC Basic 1 is for anyone who has an interest in learning to teach yoga to kids with special needs. You do not have to be a yoga teacher. This program is especially useful for parents, teachers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, social workers, and yoga teachers. Participants will receive enough hours to become accredited as RCYT with Yoga Alliance (if already a yoga teacher), after completing Basic 1 & 2. But you can start teaching kids up to age 12 right after you finish the program.
Participants will learn from Sonia herself - how to engage and focus students through yoga chants, breathing exercises, yoga poses, and guided relaxation, as well as how to evaluate students and utilize appropriate exercises for their condition. A very special part of the program is the opportunity to see Sonia teach demo classes with children, which gives participants the chance to see the method in action. You will leave feeling prepared to apply yoga techniques to a wide variety of "limitations" and "needs". And best of all, you will have the chance to deepen your own yoga practice, under the guidance of this living yoga legend!
Register here (or below) to reserve your spot. Any questions can be directed to the program coordinator for Evanston, Erin. More info here.
This short meditation for kids is very relaxing. It's great to do before bed, before school, or anytime you just need a break! Find a comfy place, close your eyes, and get ready to relax...
Yoga for Kids starts October 4th. Register here.
I found an old article in Yoga Chicago about Sonia Sumar, who trained Jennie and I in the Yoga for the Special Child (YSC) method. Sonia is the "guru" of teaching yoga to children with special needs. She developed YSC after her daughter was born with Down Syndrome in 1972.
This article shows her working in her center in Evanston - where she taught for many years - though she now lives in Florida. At Five Keys Yoga, we aim to continue her legacy in Chicagoland by providing the Yoga for the Special Child method and classes that welcome adults with special needs. We are honored to serve the special needs population in Chicago.
Are you interested in Yoga for the Special Child? Check out information about our kids classes here.
Are you looking for a way to get kids moving in an expressive way with structure to boot?! Check out GoNoodle!
As an educator, I have found these videos beneficial during transitional times with students who find unstructured times in their schedule slightly more difficult to manage. It also has proven beneficial in preparing bodies and minds for instructional times when students are asked to do more demanding or challenging tasks. Integrating these or any movement breaks into a person’s daily schedule is a wonderful practice for developing a balanced and productive learning/living environment. These videos are great for school teachers, parents, and/or givers that are looking to integrate a therapeutic approach to teaching children self-awareness and regulation skills. They even have little characters you can assign to “complete quests” where children (or adults☺) can receive awards and certificates!
At GoNoodle, you will find a plethora of exciting, motivating stretch and strength videos geared towards relieving anxiety, living in the moment, and being kind to yourself. Students follow along with certified instructor to develop skills that assist in gaining focus and finding a place of calamity. Below are a couple of my favorites.
You can find any of these videos under the “Channels” tab on the site. Be sure to sign up for FREE first!
Guest blogger Jennie Best teaches kids' and adult yoga classes, and is a Yoga for the Special Child practitioner with Five Keys.
Emerging evidence is showing that yoga may be an effective intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The Efficacy of the Get Ready to Learn yoga program on children with autism spectrum disorders study gives robust evidence that implementing a yoga program in schools is useful for many children with ASD.
This study used a control group to evaluate whether the effect was due to the yoga intervention or other variables. The study also manualized the program by having students practice yoga together using DVDs of the classes. This means that each student received exactly the same classes, lending more credibility to this intervention.
Interestingly, the authors of this study acknowledge Sonia Sumar, the creator of Yoga for the Special Child. Sonia mentored Anne Buckley-Reen, who created the Get Ready to Learn program.
We have only discovered the tip of the iceberg when it comes to yoga's effect on kids with autism. But the momentum here is exciting!
Have you seen any interesting yoga studies recently?
Children who were typically developing also displayed positive effects. With "decreased body dissatisfaction, anxiety, and negative behavior" detected.
While these are promising results, the authors note that more work has to be done before we can draw definitive conclusions. Some of the studies have methodological limitations, such as small sample size and lack of randomization or statistical rigor. Though research in yoga is emerging, we still have a long way to go in proving the many anecdotal beneficial effects we may observe in our own practices.
What kinds of yoga studies would you be interested in reading about?
*Serwacki, M.L., & Cook-Cottone, C. (2012). Yoga in the Schools: A Systematic Review of the Literature. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 22, 101-109.
Just some thoughts about yoga as I go...
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