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School Based Physical Therapy Spotlight: Yoga Therapy in the Classroom

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As a school-based physical therapist, you might be trying to develop new ways to help your students reach their goals. One approach, which may be beneficial for some children is integrating yoga into your treatment plan.

Who Can Yoga Help?

To determine if yoga is a good tool to use in therapy, it’s important to consider several factors including the child’s condition, age, and goals. Yoga therapy may be helpful in treating various conditions, such as muscular dystrophy, spinal bifida, and autism spectrum disorders. It can also be especially useful for students with cerebral palsy. Children with certain conditions, such as cerebral palsy, may have rigid muscle tone and tension. Yoga can help decrease the rigidity.

Not all children are able to participate in yoga therapy. Depending on the child’s condition and limitations, yoga may not be appropriate. But in many cases, with proper planning, children might gain some benefits from yoga. One of the great things about yoga is you can modify moves to accommodate children in wheelchairs with limited mobility.

Why Yoga?

Implementing yoga into a school-based physical therapy session can be useful for children of all ages, but especially school-age children and teens. Yoga may have the following benefits for special needs children:

Improved concentration: As children learn the breathing techniques and poses involved in yoga, they must concentrate to do the moves correctly. Yoga moves should be modified and adapted as needed, but they still require concentration. Children develop a better ability to focus, which can transfer to improved concentration in the classroom and at home.

Reduced muscle tension: Yoga involves a lot of stretching, which can help children get rid of tension. The movements also may increase flexibility and improve range of motion.

Improved coordination: Physical therapists can also implement yoga in the classroom to improve coordination. Yoga involves a series of interacting moves. Children move from one pose to another. The flow of movement may help children improve coordination and body awareness. Children gain a better understanding of how their body moves.

Increased strength: When we consider yoga as a form of exercise, we may think it mostly improves flexibility. Yoga can also increase strength. As children hold poses, it may improve strength.

Reduces anxiety: Yoga often involves breathing exercises. Breathing exercises can also be performed independently of the yoga poses in some children. The breathing techniques can have a calming effect on children. Depending on the student, therapists can teach children how to use the breathing techniques to ease anxiety.

Lastly, using yoga as part of physical therapy can be fun for kids. It is also something you can work on with parents to do at home. Benefits of yoga therapy may not happen overnight, but as a regular practice, it can be helpful as part of a treatment plan.

Are you a school-based physical therapist that has used yoga when working with students? How has it been useful? Let us know in the comments section.

Contributor Lesley Slaughter

Lesley is currently a senior vice president with Soliant and oversees the schools' division. Her 20 years of staffing experience has helped grow our schools' therapy division at Soliant from 3 recruiters to over 400. Lesley is skilled in permanent placement, technical recruiting, and staffing services within public and private schools. She has a passion for helping school districts across the country and those who serve our special needs students. She’s originally from Northwest Georgia, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcasting from Georgia Southern University, and loves spending time with her husband and 2 daughters. Make sure to check out the rest of her blogs on working in schools.