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Healthy Balance

Namaste: Yoga Class Helps Kids With Special Needs

Children take a yoga class at UVA's Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center
Children participate in a yoga class for kids with special needs at UVA’s Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center.

Picture a yoga class — what do you see?

Perhaps a group of women posing in a serene setting. Limbs outstretched. Breathing deeply. …Peaceful, right?

Now imagine a yoga class full of kids, ages 5-13. The picture changes a wee bit.

A frog pose isn’t just a pose. The kids hop from mat to mat while making froggy sounds. The room buzzes with words and activity.

Yoga for Kids With Special Needs

That’s what happens several times a year at the Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center when occupational therapist Ruth Goldeen teaches a class called Yoga for Children With Special Needs.

The program adapts traditional yoga teachings to meet the needs of children with varied conditions, including autism, sensory issues, developmental delays and cerebral palsy.

Goldeen, who gets help from a physical therapist, a speech therapist and volunteers, has taught the class for nine years and she adapts each session to the needs of the children who attend. The flow of the class follows this general pattern:

  • The kids start out with breathing and sounding exercises and move on to name games and poses.
  • There’s a schedule board that shows what’s happening in each class, something kids with autism find reassuring.
  • Toward the end of the class, Goldeen calms the children down with relaxing poses and a meditative story, one that takes them to a cloud in their imaginations or to somewhere else special.

Yoga is good for the physical body and the mind, says Goldeen. It has special benefits for these children, including:

  • Encouraging physical activity
  • Increasing self-esteem
  • Promoting positive social interactions
  • Helping develop muscle tone and flexibility
  • Providing a fun mainstream activity with peers

Interested in Yoga for Children With Special Needs?

Classes start soon, so sign up now:

Dates: Wednesdays, Sept. 14 and 21; Oct. 5, 12, 19 and 26
Time: 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Where: KCRC Atrium
Cost: $70 for a six-week session
Who: Ages 5 and above. Siblings and friends can register and parents are invited to participate if they want.
Questions? Email Ruth Goldeen or call 434.243.6869.

Tags: exercise

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