Saturday, 22 February 2014

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Yoga for Everyone

Yogability provide yoga classes for children and adults with additional support needs and their carers in central Scotland, all free of charge.  Helen from Yogability has kindly given a guest blog to explain a bit more of what they offer.

About us

My friend Debbie and I  are qualified yoga and special needs yoga teachers. We studied special needs yoga at the leading centre in London.  When we attended the teacher training, we were unsure what to expect but we were so amazed by the work they were doing that we felt sure that this was the place we wanted to be.  We both knew we wanted to pass on yoga to others, having benefited from it greatly ourselves but also having family benefit too; Debbie's son has cerebral palsy and was regularly seeing a special needs yoga teacher who had trained at the same centre in London.  His enjoyment of the sessions and the tangible benefits that Debbie could see as a mum and a yoga teacher served as the impetus for us to attend the course and follow the path to starting up the charity.
Once we have a student, they are welcome to continue with us indefinitely and there is no rush in developing postures..  Our main reasons for making Yogability free of charge is to remove barriers to entry so that everyone is viewed equally and so that no-one, including the parents or teachers have expectations of our children. 



The benefits of yoga are universal although it's a different experience for everyone. Yoga, at it's basic level, stretches out the connective tissue, the fascia, the muscles and the entire body, a lovely, open feeling which sets you up for the day.  But yoga also brings a sense of wellbeing; it brings an awareness to the body and mind and increases health and vitality. It provides strength, flexibility and calmness.  It increases lung capacity, slows down the breath and gives tools for pain management and dealing with anxiety, depression and anger.  It brings clarity and stillness to our lives


At Yogability, our sessions is usually around 30 minutes and can be one to one moving to group work only if suitable. It is child centric so the session is all about the child and what he or she needs or wants to participate in.  It can take some children many months to sit on a mat whereas other children begin postures from day one.  

Each child is unique and we assess them to see what kind of service would be best for them.  For some it will be  require passive yoga  where we act as yoga therapists, talking or singing gently to our children whilst helping them into the yoga postures.  Some need a little assistance, maybe to sit up or to get into some more demanding postures whereas others can participate fully on their own or even in groups. 

We start a session quietly chatting with our child and then begin our yoga postures, usually starting with the feet and working up to the arms then, if our child is happy, we move on to other postures.  For group work, postures usually come after some breath work and end with more breathing techniques and a mini meditation.  It is wonderful to see a group suddenly breath together in unison and open their eyes at the end of a session with smiles on their faces, sometimes very different from how they first arrived.  Some sessions are spent playing or singing, encouraging postures through play, particularly in younger children and depending on the mood of the day.

We see Yogability as a community so parents/carers are encouraged to do what's best for them in a session.  You are welcome to stay and enjoy the opportunity to meet up with other carers getting support, just catching up or having a break or go off for some time alone.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Supermarket Seat

In January this year we changed our shopping from on-line to store based which is possible because our local Tesco has a five point harness on their disabled child trolley.  The first trip went really well but the second week we turned up and someone else was using the trolley.  After much discussion with customer service and then the duty manager, we finally got an offer of free delivery.  This was not a pleasant experience but  I have to fully acknowledge that when we returned the following week, there were two additional disabled trollies available. 

During the conversation one statement,  “that’s fine, someone else is using it”, really highlighted to me how complicated doing something as simple as shopping could be. No stores offer a specific discount on on-line shopping to anyone with a disability,  I wanted to find out how accessible in store shopping was.  A quick survey showed that almost 60% were not able to access an appropriate trolley in store. 

I contacted all the major supermarkets (Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons).   They all confirmed that their store managers were empowered to order a disabled child trolley should a customer request one, or highlight the need for one.  They all also seemed willing to supply a member of staff to accompany you on your shop should a trolley not be available, or appropriate.  Where your store does have a trolley, the recommendation was in the first instance to contact the store and have the trolley put aside before you go.  The strong message here is ASK .  I do believe that the stores are unaware  of the extent of the demand for these trolleys.

So far it seems there is willingness to meet the customer need albeit somewhat lacking in pro-activity.  However  survey and anecdotal evidence indicates that the trolleys available do not fully meet the needs of the disabled child and their family:

  • Wheelchair specific trollies are too wide for a child wheelchair.
  • The disabled child trolley often does not have appropriate harness or support

At the same time, when asked would the availability of a suitable trolley influence their choice of store, the majority said it would.


So what is out there that may meet the needs of the family better?  In the UK for a smaller child is the GOTOseat which works well in a toddler trolley.  Currently you would have to supply your own but hopefully the supermarkets will see the benefits of having some in store. 

For the older in child, the best option I have found is Caroline’s cart in the US.  This was released in 2013 and perhaps we will see it come to the UK.