Lindsay Malejko, co-founder of Prasanthi Studio in Westchester, explains how yoga can benefit kids who have special needs, how yoga classes are modified for children with special needs, and why she recommends yoga for parents of kids with special needs.
Q: What are the benefits of yoga for children with special needs?
A: Yoga for kids with special needs helps the child learn to process information before they react. The breathing techniques help the kids improve their response time. It also gives them some alternatives to reacting too quickly to a situation.
Q: How do yoga classes for children with special needs differ from yoga classes for a more general population?
A: There are a lot of similarities, and there are a lot of differences. One of the differences is that there is usually a smaller class size. There are also a lot more modifications because we find that children with special needs have more difficulty with regulating their emotions and connecting with their physical body. The classes are broken down into a lot of steps so that kids can learn to actually feel their physical body. It helps them learn to process information before they react. Breathing techniques help improve their response time.
Q: Does yoga help kids with specific needs more so than others?
A: No, because I think all kids can benefit from yoga. I think children with special needs really benefit from yoga because they tend to have more needs—they don’t always feel their body the way general education kids do. With special needs kids, sometimes there are more impulses, attention deficits, and lack of focus. The yoga classes kind of draw their attention back into something focused.
Q: Is yoga for special needs something you encourage parents to participate in?
A: I do encourage the parents to participate. Although some of the yoga class settings are solely kids, some classes are funded so that the parents can participate. This creates a nice bond because the children and parent are doing the same activity together.
Q: Can yoga also be beneficial to the parents of children with special needs, in helping them deal with their own stress?
A: Absolutely, I think everyone needs a yoga practice. In this society we live in, many of us are exhausted and busy. Often we never take time to ourselves. For parents that have a child with special needs, it's often a full-time job. Yoga can help with the patience that this often takes.
Lindsay Malejko is the co-founder of Prasanthi Studio in Pelham, NY. She is licensed in general education and special education. She is also a holistic health coach, adult and child yoga instructor, and a mother of three children.