How Kids’ Yoga Can Help With Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy Treatments, Physical Therapies

Exercise is often a challenge for children with cerebral palsy, yet they need physical activity to promote their overall health and wellness. Children with cerebral palsy often have reduced muscle tone and a limited range of motion.

If you are caring for a child with cerebral palsy, you understand that child may require special medical care, procedures, and physical therapy. Yoga offers a form of gentle exercise that may help your child overcome some of the physical difficulties associated with cerebral palsy. When a child works with a licensed instructor who can offer yoga for cerebral palsy individuals and has special training in adaptive yoga, the child can receive supportive guidance and obtain the physical exercise needed.

What Is Yoga for Kids With Cerebral Palsy?

Whether a child has ataxic, spastic, or athetoid cerebral palsy, yoga may help to increase balance and muscle tone, decrease muscle tension, encourage a child to relax, and provide a sense of overall well-being. Yoga for kids may help to enhance a child’s natural physical function in a safe and fun manner that kids can look forward to participating in.

Yoga is a body practice and discipline that originated from ancient India. Yoga uses slow, controlled movements and poses, referred to as asanas, that a person holds for a specific amount of time to help stretch and relax the muscles. Stretching muscles helps to increase circulation and blood flow throughout the body, which may help to enhance optimal functioning of the body.

Children with cerebral palsy often receive physical therapy as a part of their treatment to help increase physical fitness. Yoga can add an alternative type of exercise to coordinate with their physical therapy. Because a child may have physical limitations, it’s important that the yoga instructor modifies a yoga practice to account for the limitations associated with cerebral palsy.

How Does a Yoga Instructor Implement Adaptive Yoga for Cerebral Palsy?

When practicing yoga, individuals hold a specific pose, or asana, for a prescribed amount of time and position. A child with cerebral palsy may not have the physical ability to perform these types of poses. Fortunately, yoga is an adaptive form of exercise. With the right knowledge and basic equipment, the instructor can integrate adapted yoga positions into a child’s exercise routine.

When the instructor has children perform and hold the adapted poses, the instructor can also help them with breathing techniques, known as pranayamas. Inhaling in a slow, methodical way brings oxygen into the body and working muscles, and exhaling helps to rid the body of carbon dioxide. Controlled breathing may help a child to relax and focus as well.

Chair Yoga

If a child uses a wheelchair, a yoga instructor can adapt the yoga poses while the child is in a seated position.

Many yoga poses help stretch the spine, shoulders, lower back and hips. Some of the poses for chair yoga include:

  • Side stretches
  • Shoulder stretches
  • Seated spinal twists
  • Back stretches
  • Forward bends
  • Leg stretches

Yoga With Floor Exercises

When children have ataxic cerebral palsy, they may have a fear of falling. Using adaptive yoga postures with props, straps and bolsters could help with stability and balance issues. These props may help to alleviate the fear of falling so that children can enjoy the poses. Several poses that are normally performed standing up are modified so that children can lie on the floor or, when they are standing, have support from an instructor.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Yoga for Cerebral Palsy?

The benefits of practicing yoga vary depending on the severity of cerebral palsy. Some of these benefits can include:

  • Improved posture
  • Improved breathing
  • Increased blood flow
  • Improved bone health
  • Improved flexibility and balance
  • Increased range of motion
  • Increased spinal alignment
  • Increased relaxation
  • Improved sleep
  • Reduction of muscular tension
  • Improved focus
  • Strengthening of the muscles, joints and connective tissues

While yoga may help your child build muscle tone, promote relaxation, and help with self-esteem issues, it’s important to consult with your primary physician before beginning a yoga practice for your child to ensure that it will be a good fit for them. In addition, always use a licensed, qualified yoga instructor with training in adaptive yoga techniques for individuals with cerebral palsy.

If you believe that your child or a loved one has cerebral palsy that may have been the result of medical negligence or a problem during birth, the Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC can provide legal counsel. With a depth of legal and medical expertise, we have helped over 30,000 families make the best choices for their families regarding their cerebral palsy medical malpractice case. Contact us today to learn more.

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