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Yoga doesn’t have to be a four letter word

I will be the first to admit that I am not a fan of yoga.  I remember in OT school learning how to use “alternative” activities to assist patients with life threatening, progressive illnesses.  How through breathing, meditation, and control over your body, one could lessen their pain and help improve their overall function for persons suffering from Cancer for example.

We were actually required to take a brief course every Tuesday and Thursday for an hour during an 8 week period so we too could experience what some of our patients might be doing.  Our instructor was a former physics instructor of mine, Sigfried Blair, who reminded me of Gumby with an afro.  Not the best start, I’ll admit, but I digress.  For three weeks, I remember hearing “clear your mind, breathe, and let your body be one with the movement”.  Those who know me can sympathize that I have never been a “clear your mind type of person” and hearing those words really stressed me out.  I am a multi-tasker and proud to claim my “gift”.

I left each session with a migraine headache and set out to find a way out of there.  I easily obtained a permission slip from a doctor who said my headaches and stress were a direct result of these yoga sessions and for medical reasons I should be excused.  See, you can get a doctor to say about anything!

Last year I attended a continuing education conference entitled, “Motor Coordination Disorders:  Impact on Education” where one of the treatments investigated was using yoga to facilitate motor coordination.  The speaker showed us some cute programs with color coded cards and child friendly activities.  I thought I might give yoga another try.

I have since come to accept that even though yoga is not for me, it is definitely for some of the children I serve.  Yoga teaches children to breathe effectively which can improve concentration, learning, and vocal support.  It can also help with self-regulation.

Moreover, yoga encourages body awareness.  Most yoga programs for children focus on slow controlled body movements which require a body awareness of what the muscles are doing as they practice assuming different postures.  It can also help with strengthening, range of motion, and flexibility.  Finally, yoga may help children learn to grade their movements since many of the poses require children to hold at the midrange.

So, yoga may not be for me, but it might be a great activity for your kids.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

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