2nd October 2017
Special Yoga for Special Children, Training Summer 2017
I’m a Learning Mentor here at Pencalenick and when I’m not supporting the children at school; as well as spending time with my own family, I teach yoga. I love the health gains that yoga provides through movement and stretching (I’m not particularly flexible but I still need to move!) and I get a huge sense of calm and stillness from breathing techniques and relaxation: a sense of feeling grounded – coming ‘home’ to myself and to my body and allowing myself the space to do this in an otherwise busy home/work environment. This is particularly important in our ever-growing world of smartphones and online connectivity when more often than not screen time can add to feelings of being disconnected. So, when I saw an opportunity to enrol on a course to qualify me to share yoga with people within the Pencalenick community, I took it!
At the beginning of this just past summer holiday I attended some awe-inspiring training led by The Special Yoga Foundation in London. I teach yoga because I want to share the joyous and healing benefits that yoga brought to my own life. During the seven days of training I met other Learning Mentors, Teachers, Occupational Therapists, Support workers from an Orphanage in Russia and Parents of children with special needs. We observed the practice of yoga in action: Practitioners from the Yoga Foundation who work with a range of children, families and carers who came in to the centre for us; and shared their stories of yoga being used as a therapeutic intervention for positive change.
Yoga is a scientific system of physical and mental practices that originated in India more than 3000 years ago. Its purpose is to help us to achieve our highest potential and to experience enduring health and happiness. These days there are many different types of yoga but the type of yoga we looked at was working with the body – anybody, on a structural level, helping to align the vertebrae, increase flexibility and strengthen muscles and tendons. At the same time, internal organs are toned and rejuvenated; the epidermal, digestive, lymphatic, cardiovascular, and pulmonary systems are purified of toxins and waste matter; the nervous and endocrine systems are balanced and toned; and the brain cells are nourished and stimulated. The end result is increased mental clarity, emotional stability, and a greater sense of overall well-being.
This is by no means suggesting that yoga is a quick-fix treatment for anything, like everything in life it requires time and practice, patience and care. The first practice of yoga is to accept our limitations, whatever they may be, and using this tool of self-acceptance as the foundation to build upon.
To share the practice of yoga with young people I would invite them to cultivate softness through poses, to connect and really inhabit the beautiful bodies they’ve been blessed with, build trust in a safe space and encourage use of our most vital tool – our breath, allowing a child to feel openness and freedom. Then over time I would observe balance and strength through their guided practice. When a child realises they have the ability to do something independently, then they can truly feel empowered – an intention we all set for our pupils at Pencalenick: to feel a sense of independence and empowerment as they progress into adulthood.
Every day I am grateful that I found yoga! I believe its benefits are for absolutely everyone. I’m lucky to have attended this amazing course, if you get a chance look up The Special Yoga Foundation, they do amazing work internationally. I hope to share what I’ve learnt with our Pencalenick community this year and beyond.