Lots happening that I’d like to write about!
Finished teaching an 8 week course of Chair Yoga for Cerebral Palsy this week.
The clients were a pleasure to work with. They learnt a lot about Yoga, Somatics and Pilates Movement in a short space of time and retained new information easily.
It was obvious that they really love Yoga. I was impressed by how well they listen, to the directions, as to their own inner guidance. Each week they came to the practice with an open attitude, diligently exploring new ways of moving, and trying out various Breathing Practices, Mindfulness and Meditations.
The centre where the classes were held has a Sensory room, so on Week 3, we tried Yoga Nidra in there. Being able to dim the lights completely, leant to the atmosphere for this type of Meditation. The clients rested on giant beanbags, making it more comfortable should they drift off during the practice. They also had a wall projector, background music, star-lit night sky, and LED fibres…we were totally spoilt.
Yoga gives a person space, where emotions may have room to bubble up and come to the surface. We discussed bringing the attention back to the breathe and allowing our thoughts and feelings to be as they are, not getting caught up in the inner monologue nor trying to change anything. Simply becoming aware of the thoughts, feelings and physical sensations that may be present in any given moment, allowing them to be there, and then bringing the attention back to the breath. It was also important to have a laugh and not take ourselves too seriously!
For anyone thinking of taking on an Adaptive Yoga class, I found it really worthwhile as a teacher to have this experience. It was humbling and amazing, watching the clients transform and grow, accepting their limits while taking themselves to the edges of their own comfort zones. It made me a better listener, and a more attentive teacher, as I had to learn and watch out for their communication cues. Energy-wise, it was important to remain upbeat, including some fun movement techniques from kids yoga, though the clients were in their late teens, they responded really well to having fun, who doesn’t?!
Visualisation is key to Adaptive Yoga, both inviting students to “imagine” and giving them a direction or target to travel to. “Open your arms out wide” gets an ok response, while “Open your arms out wide, reach and tickle your neighbour!” will get those arms wide open!
For the carers present, I needed to tune in to their ability and communication style as they are part of the class too. Finding a carer who knows the client well enough to verbalise for them, who can help the client to carry out the movement while staying within their pain-free zone, and who knows their left from their right or indeed has any body awareness, is a whole other aspect that you will need to consider when leading an Adaptive Yoga class! Carers are wonderful people who work hard, they spend their day caring for the needs of others, and their jobs are physically taxing. I found they really appreciated the Yoga classes, especially the Breathing and Meditation practices.
Each week you have to find the right pace for everyone, picking up the energy when needed and giving space for energy to settle when that is required too. It’s important to give space at the end of the class, to give everyone time to adjust and regroup before their next activity. The clients may be leaving the centre straight after the class, the carers may be due a lunch break etc, so it’s essential to run to schedule and finish a few minutes early if possible.
If you are thinking about teaching Adaptive Yoga, or training as a Yoga Therapist, Yoga Therapy Ireland is a great place to go for more information or even sign up for one of their courses. Their Yoga in a Chair Seminar by Elma Toland was a wonderful resource in preparing for this course, as was their 500hr teacher training.
Here is a case study on Yoga for Cerebral Palsy that families and carers for those with CP might find useful to follow as a home programme:Adaptive-Yoga-for-Individuals-CP
For more info on the author, Ryan McGraw, and for Cerebral Palsy support see http://cerebralpalsy.org/inspiration/athletes/ryan-mcgraw/
Another online resource; Somatic Movement for younger children http://movementforkidswithspecialneeds.org
Live. Love. Move!
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