For children and teens with Cerebral Palsy yoga may help stretch and realign the spine, increase flexibility, and augment range of motion. Holding yoga poses in a gentle stretch helps relax the muscles, reducing high muscle tone, and exercising areas of low muscle tone.
Twisting poses are especially beneficial. A simple seated twist begins while sitting, rooting into the pelvis, inhale as you extend the spine/sit tall, exhale as you twist. Repeat two more times working deeper into the twist with each exhale. The last thing to rotate should be your neck with you gazing behind you. Release and return to centre. Repeat the process on the opposite side. This same exercise can be performed while lying on a mat or the floor.
There are numerous other yoga asanas which may prove especially helpful. Modify the poses as necessary, even performing many while lying on a mat or supported by an adult. Remember the goal is not a perfect pose, but the integration of body, breath, and mind. Some suggestions include:
- Standing poses (Mountain, Compass, Warrior, Chair)
- Inversions (Downward Dog, Dolphin, Rabbit)
- Backbends (Cobra, Dancer, Camel)
- Yoga Eyes
- Foot Massage
Yoga will exercise the spine in many ways, lengthening the space between vertebrae and relaxing the pressure on nerves. As a result, nerve function is enhanced and muscle tension released, providing greater range of movement, increased coordination, and flexibility.
An exercise which is highly beneficial for children with Cerebral Palsy is to make a bolster out of a rolled-up blanket or large pillow. Have the child lie back on it with their arms resting by their sides. Gently roll and rock the bolster back and forth. This is a wonderful way to energize the spine and open the front of the body.
In addition, a focus on breathing exercises will increase spinal movement and strengthen stomach and back muscles while stimulating internal organs. Learning to use a complete breath will loosen muscles throughout the torso and increase respiratory control.
Chanting and using music will also provide needed stimulus and is most enjoyable. Often activities involving moving to music, or sitting quietly and feeling the reverberations of “Aum,” are the ones which bring the greatest happiness and contentment as the connection with sound becomes more vital than any physical limitations.
For a more complete understanding of Cerebral Palsy read What is Cerebral Palsy?
Wow – very inspiring piece! It is amazing the love that everyone is sharing and receiving in the video. It shows how much yoga is about union within yourself and also in your relationships.
Thank YOU Donna for this wonderful piece. Of all groups of children, I feel those with special needs gain tremendous benefit from yoga. The articles and video you post here demonstrate that. Thanks for this highlight!! I love Sonia’s book and refer to it often.
It’s amazing how much yoga can help those in any physical condition! I am impressed with the amount of knowledge you have for this special group. When my mother was a young teacher in the late 60s she taught a group of children with Cerebral Palsy. I am sure she could have benefitted from this lesson as a way to help those kids. We know so much now about how to help those who are physically challenged. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, thoughts and ideas with other yoga teachers. It is such a blessing that teachers like you exist and are sharing their gift with the world. I am passing on this post to my mother.
Thanks for forwarding the article – that always means a great deal.
my brother has cerebal palsy and he cannot walk. he can crawl and move, i was woundering whether the is a dvd or book i could get him so he can start doing yoga?
I am unaware of resources for severe cerebral palsy. Most of the training workshops/resources are for mild cases. However, floor yoga is very effective for stretching out tightness and provides lovely support. Try gentle supine twists, cobra pose, forward folds. Use lot of props to open the chest and encourage full range of motion in the shoulders/hips/joints as you assist.