How Kids Yoga Can Help Cerebral Palsy

I have recently had a 6 year old boy in my kids yoga classes with Cerebral Palsy. I had to learn a bit more about CP to make sure I would be helping him, so wanted to share some of my discoveries and experiences here. Hope you find it interesting!

David has a mild form of Spastic Cerebral Palsy. He can walk (awkwardly) and attends a mainstream school, but he has stiff muscles – mainly in his legs and hips, and as with many children who have CP, David also has impaired vision and a speech impediment.

What David LOVES are stories – he loves books of every description. He also loves yoga. It is one of the few activities he can do in a class with other kids, unaided and on his own mat. That independence gives him huge pleasure and the combination of yoga and a story is pure joy!

From a physical perspective, the yoga that I find helps David most is:

  1. On the floor – we take away the issue of balance, which can sometimes be a bit frustrating for him. He has less to worry about and enjoys the postures more.

  2. Opening the door – side stretches really open up and release his torso, creating space all the way down his ribcage and waist.

  3. Making a sandwich – seated forward bends stretch and iron out the backs of his very tense and stiff legs.

  4. Crooked trees – a supine spinal twist which releases his spine.

  5. Mermaid – a seated spinal twist which energizes and mobilses his spine.

  6. Roll your shoulders round and round – with this external rotation he opens up his shoulders and chest and improves his seated posture.

  7. Jaw rubbing – helps him release tension from his jaw as he often clenches it.

  8. Relaxation practice – helps him learn how to actively ‘let go’ and relax his whole body for short periods – this is a tough process but is one David gets better at every week.

I had no idea how beneficial yoga would be for David. He lights up when he comes into the room and sees me setting up the mats! His Mum is also delighted and tells me how much he talks about it and looks forward to coming to his class. I am looking forward to seeing David continue to progress and improve over the coming term and learning more about yoga as I go.

I love teaching all kids yoga, and each one of them teaches me something different about it.

Note: Yoga for cerebral palsy is a well researched area. If you are keen to learn more take a look at Sonia Sumar is a pioneer of Yoga for the Special Child - "a comprehensive Program of Yoga techniques designed to enhance the natural development of children with special needs."

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