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Yoga for People with Special Needs

When our nervous systems are out of balance, we feel fatigue, confusion, and experience poor performance.  When proper energy flow is restored, feelings of clarity and effectiveness are regained.  Yoga movements are designed to integrate the body and mind, clear the body of accumulated toxins, increase oxygen to the cells, and to strengthen, stretch, and activate muscles and tendons that may be atrophied, constricted or sore.  If you are a person with special needs, before you start any exercises be sure you are comfortable with good back support and proper alignment.  If there is “negative space” (an unsupported part of your body) use rolled up yoga mats or soft balls to fill space and create support.  Make sure there is plenty of distance from wall, tables, and chairs.  

 Yoga is a Sanskrit word for union of body and mind; some people say it describes the union of the individual with the divine. For a super athlete or for an immobile person, yoga is about finding one’s center.  It is also about finding one’s limits and playing that edge. An advanced yoga student may hold a full backbend for twenty minutes, using the breath to go deeper into the pose.  For someone paralyzed from the neck down, a stretch for opening the chest and elongating the spine can be as simple as sitting in a wheelchair with soft rubber balls between the shoulder blades, leaning back, and breathing into the area.   

Here are some other ideas for simple stretches that you can do seated, lying on the floor, or on a bed.  Remember not to hold your breath, and imagine your breath is traveling to the areas that are being stretched to help them release. Take your time, pay attention to how you are feeling, what works and what doesn’t, and enjoy the possibly new sensations!  Notice any changes in your movement, or posture throughout the day and the next days.

  1. Tennis balls, rubber balls (different sizes depending upon flexibility of client) behind any area of the back

  2. Towel or exercise mats rolled up to prop up spine and stretch spinal muscles and open chest

  3. Ties or belts as extensions for arms that can’t bend or stretch very far

  4. Balls at base of skull to massage sub-occipital muscles (for reduction of pain and tension, and headaches)

  5. Balls or beanbag pillows under hamstrings

  6. Large balls or beanbags under legs as ottoman for circulation and to stimulate acupressure channels


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