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.
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.