What are the benefits of yoga for SEND children
Challenges facing SEND children
Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) may have conditions including ADHD, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Sensory Processing Disorder or Autism. Their diagnosis can adversely affect their physical ability, behaviour, concentration, reading and writing skills and socialisation. Many children on the autism spectrum are in a constant heightened state of arousal, with some suffering anxiety attacks and hyperventilating. Yoga can bring calm and a sense of order to these children.
Benefits of SEND yoga
For everyone, yoga is a beneficial discipline involving the mindful combination of breath control, guided imagery and stretching. For children with SEND yoga can be especially helpful, with advantages including:
- Increased confidence
- Improved communication
- Better concentration
- Stress relief
- Motor skills development
- Relieve muscle tension
- Self-regulation and sensory processing
- Breath control.
A yoga class is a safe space for SEND children. Taking part brings a feeling of accomplishment and achievement. Consequently, children feel more confident and on top of their bodies and emotions.
Through yoga, children can gain a better understanding of their own bodies and how to control their movement, leading to a sense of mastery. Children who suffer from low self-esteem may become more confident in social settings, and group lessons encourage successful team working and collaboration with other children.
Yoga helps to develop speech and language skills in a fun way. Non-verbal children can use animal yoga poses to express their feelings, such as the mouse pose for shyness or a dog wagging its tail for happiness.
Yoga’s combination of breathing techniques and poses helps children clear their minds and focus on the activity at hand. This can lead to improved concentration during school lessons.
SEND children tend to be more anxious than able-bodied children. Learning breathing exercises can relieve stress and tension. Yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting rest and relaxation.
Motor skills development
Yoga promotes movement, increases flexibility and eases joint stiffness. Poses develop motor skills and body awareness, leading to improved posture, stability and balance. Enhanced muscle tone is especially beneficial for children with cerebral palsy.
Holding poses increases strength, while poses such as tree, airplane and seated twists can increase body awareness and develop gross motor skills.
Relieve muscle tension
Children with special needs often have rigid muscle tone and yoga can address this. Stretching the body can help the child get rid of the tension.
Self-regulation and sensory processing
Yoga can help children to cope better with their emotions through mindful breathing and calming poses. For example, the starfish pose will stimulate the proprioceptive sense (which helps us to feel grounded and calm). . Physiotherapists call proprioception the ‘safe sense’. This is because activities which stimulate this sense have an organising effect on the brain. This can be particularly beneficial for children with sensory processing issues.
Children with autism often find it difficult to express their feelings. The brain’s emotional region is activated through yogic movement, music and breathing exercises. This encourages children to develop emotional awareness and enables them to express their emotions in a healthy manner.
Breathing and relaxation are an important part of yoga practice. Children learn to feel calm through yogic breathing, which reduces heart rate and blood pressure.
Importance of regular practice
It’s essential to practise yoga regularly in order to see the full benefits. Once a child knows their body, they can begin to explore new poses and focus on areas of improvement.
How Synergy Dance Outreach can help
We deliver our exciting yoga programme in schools and leisure centres, breaking down the barriers which prevent SEND children from participating.
Our action-packed yoga classes are full of energy, fun and flair and encourage creativity and imagination. Children have space and freedom to grow and learn new skills, keep fit and make friends. With Synergy, yoga is fully accessible to all and no one is left behind!