Yoga and Children with Sensory Processing Issues

As an OT working with kids with sensory issues, keeping postures simple and allowing students to become acclimated over time has worked best for me. I have included certain postures that have worked for particular children on my caseload. I have set up sequences with postures that can calm, focus and aid in self-regulation. Alerting poses are also listed here. You may have different results; this is a framework to work from in your exploration.

These sequences are suggested for interacting with a sensory subsection, but it is important to be flexible and responsive in the moment as this is an exploratory approach. The poses were selected to provide weight bearing, deep breathing, relaxation, balance, core strength, range of motion, opening of the heart and alerting as needed. You may find favorite poses that work for your clients that are not mentioned here, as these are a few suggestions.

Back-to-Back Partner Breathing
This back-to-back breathing activity incorporates a body mind centering principle of distinguishing the right and left lobes of the lungs, the layering of the body systems and the awareness of the cells.
•  Sit comfortably with your partner on the floor with legs crossed back to back. If you are unable to sit on the floor, you can sit sideways on chairs with the chair backs facing your right sides.
•  Quietly start to notice your own breathing and notice the breathing of your partner.
•  Notice the air passing through your lungs with a cellular awareness of your layers of skin, muscle, bone, organ, blood, and nerves.
•  Notice the cells that make up all these systems.
•  Notice the three lobes of the lungs on the right side and the two lobes on the left side. Notice there is a distinction between each side.
•  Notice your back muscles and the structure of your bones and those of your partner.
•  Notice how it feels to breathe through all the body’s layers and the lobes.
•  Notice when you’re breathing in sync with your partner’s breathing.

Adaptation: Positioning Multi-handicapped Students for Partner Breathing
Adapt this pose for a multi-handicapped child or adolescent by setting up in a side lie position. Placing the student’s back to your front body, allow the child to lean into you (yield). Or, you can sit and lean back into a bean bag chair, secured ball or a wall with the student’s back body positioned to lean back into the therapist’s front body, sitting between the therapist’s legs. If the student can’t be positioned like this, place the student’s hand on your stomach, sternum or clavicle and allow the student to experience your breathing pattern. The student can also watch a tissue, toy, paper or ball as it moves on their belly while breathing. If these techniques aren’t doable, refer to the accommodations by the equal breath activity. Once positioned, proceed with the directions above for the partner breathing.
•  Simple Instructions for three-part breath and partner breath
•  Inhale and watch your breath within go up through the three chambers (lower part of the abdominal area, the thoracic region or mid-section of the chest and the area under the clavicle or shoulders and upper chest region. Follow this with an exhale down through the same three chambers.
•  Repeat the inhale and exhale 10 times.
•  Sense the breathing of your partner and imagine the breath going through the skin, muscle, bones, circulatory system, organs and lungs.
•  Notice what happens to your breathing sitting with your partner.

Back-to-Back Partner Breathing in chairs
•  If there isn’t time or accommodation for students to sit on the floor, they can sit sideways on chairs for partner breathing. The students can do back-to-back breathing on chairs sitting sideways.
•  Instruct the children to arrange the chairs, with the chair backs facing their right sides so they can sit back to back.
•  For chairs with desk attached, their backs would be positioned where they enter the seat, and then their legs are extended through the other side.

Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa and Restorative Yoga for Sensory Issues
Hatha yoga is the name given to effort to do the physical poses. Ha also mean sun and tha means moon and it means the unity of the sun and moon or the universe.

The definition of Vinyasa is linking body movement with breath to form a continuous flow. Vinyasa quiets the mind by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Vinyasa can utilize poses to alert or calm. Just as the hatha yoga postures in this workbook are helpful for self-regulation, the restorative poses bring a deeper relaxation. Restorative yoga poses are done lying down or sitting and use props. They are called restorative because of the deep relaxation and rejuvenation that comes from doing this active relaxation.

The three following sensory seekers’ sequences combine active poses, vibration breath (Humming Bee), guided imagery, relaxation and meditation. The poses can be interchanged and have a relaxation component, Sponge or Do-Nothing-Doll pose at the end.