It has been found that yoga is beneficial to children with special needs. Yoga for autism is becoming a highly researched and developed area in yoga therapy which will help support children and families of autism.
First hand experience with her autistic daughter
Rina Brahmbhatt has been fortunate to witness this first hand. Rina’s daughter, Janvi, has transformed from a disoriented and hyper child into an organized and focused one during her yoga sessions. Yoga therapy has been instrumental to her development; it has helped her to express her explorer nature and communicate her get-up-and-go spirit. But getting to yoga isn’t easy. Rina has to commute with her non-verbal autistic daughter Janvi, from South to North London, to attend a yoga class at Mahadevi Yoga Centre in London. The journey is over an hour each way, but it is well worth it.
Rina recalls, “I remember our first day… Janvi was not able to settle down. She kept running away…” After continued attendance and regular practice, Rina witnessed Janvi as she completed her sun salutations – independently. It was incredible to witness.
We asked Rina how yoga for autism has helped her daughter
1. Developing social skills – Yoga therapy teaches a child to come out of their shell and build a relationship with their teacher. How does this happen?
“As I work with a child, the child learns to trust and imitate “asanas”. From there on, I move onto chanting and within first few lessons I noticed that the child participates more freely. I say “Hari”, child says “Om”, and eventually leading to develop more social skills, not just with me but with their peers and family members.”
2. Learning to relax – The combination of various poses (asanas) and breathing exercises has a soothing effect and helps children to enjoy inner calmness – which poses seem most useful to you from experience?
“If the child is able to do “Sun Salutation” it is the most useful asana which helps children to relax. If child is yet not able to do the sun salutation, combination of “boat pose (Paripurna asana)” with Pranayama (breathing) helps children to relax their core.”
3. Feeling a sense of belonging – Yoga provides an opportunity to be part of a community, where children showcase what they learn. Share your example of this.
“In some areas there are no special needs activity clubs for children with disability, this certainly can be isolating for families and children. JanvisYoga aims to change this, we’ve had our first trial class in June, and it was fantastic to see parents and children participating. I plan to host more classes, starting from next school term (September 2016) and spread the love of Yoga to special needs children.”
Because Rina has seen such success with Janvi, she has committed herself to connecting more children with special needs to yoga. To start off on this mission, Rina is going to build a traveling yoga centre that can move from location to location around South London. The mobile unit will be complete with all equipment needed for the yoga sessions in addition to having a practice space inside for lessons to happen in the traveling yoga centre.
The Travelling Yoga Centre and JanvisYoga
The traveling yoga centre will be built on the same traditions as the MahaDevi Yoga Centre, which is based on Sonia Sumar’s methods, outlined in her book “Yoga for the Special Child, a Therapeutic Approach for Infants and Children with Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and Learning Disabilities.”
The goal is to help these children develop to their full potential and have better lives. The fundamental beliefs include:
– Every child has a beautiful soul capable of forming strong spiritual connections.
– Treating the whole child, the whole being, not the body or the special needs.
– Meet the child where they are.
– Enable soul-to-soul connection between parent (teacher) and child (student).
The traveling yoga centre will also include learnings from Louise Goldberg’s “Yoga Therapy for Children with Autism and Special Needs” which transitions Sonia Sumar’s methods from parent/child to teacher/student. It is a big vision and Rina is at the start of the journey. It is a hugely worthwhile cause that needs support. What Rina needs more than anything at the moment is help raising money to set up yoga clubs in the Merton and Sutton area of London. Donations, ideas, volunteers, in-kind donations, fundraising ideas, etc. are all welcome and genuinely appreciated.
To support the project, please visit their donations page here.
For more information, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will share your details with Rina.