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by Lynn Geddes
After working with all populations from children to seniors I realize that there is a vast need and comprehension on how to achieve proper alignment in the body. Many children and adults sit with rainbow rounded backs and can’t even touch their toes. With less physical activity in the world due to inactive jobs, removal of PE programs in the schools, and the abundance of technology we are stimulated with, we are not strengthening and stretching the muscles that hold us upright.
Look at pictures from the 1800’s of men, women, and children sitting and standing. Their posture was rather attractive. The corsets women wore aided in supporting the bust, creating a cone-shape while drawing the shoulders back. Men also wore corsets to obtain a slim figure and narrow the waist line. I am not suggesting you wear a corset, but I am suggesting that it is important that you take care of your back in order to maintain a healthy spine. Look around and observe how people sit, stand and bend over. The majority can’t even hold their shoulders on their back, sit up, stand up much less touch their toes while maintaining the proper curves of the S- Spine that enable them to sit and stand upright.
Many imbalances lead to debilitating diseases in the body. Individuals may have weaknesses in the nervous system resulting in depression, anxiety, grief, circulatory, lymphatic, autoimmune, and digestive disorders. Yoga is for everyone who is willing to make a lifestyle change and take charge of their health to improve their quality of life.
Yoga can be done by anyone, anywhere and anytime. If you can breathe you can do yoga. Children to senior citizens can do yoga. Yoga has been proven beneficial to athletes to improve performance. It is being prescribed for pre and post rehabilitation therapy for patients. Some hospitals are using yoga for heart and cancer patients. Pregnant women can do yoga, but should practice under the supervision of a certified pre and post natal yoga teacher.
Chair Yoga is being taught at yoga studios, assisted living and medical facilities, work places and in some schools. Yoga not only has physical benefits, but it also has psychological benefits. Yoga uses mindful awareness linking postures with your breath. Looking at a yoga pose in a book and trying to imitate it with minimal knowledge and instruction can be challenging if you do not know how to initiate optimal alignment while maintaining stability and integration in the pose. Knowing how to build a pose from the foundation will produce greater results.
Yoga poses are built from the foundation whether you are using your feet, hands or head. It is like building a quality home from the ground up.When you see a pose that appears as though you would never be able to achieve,
automatically it makes you feel contracted or limited. Modifications and props are wonderful tools to use to cultivate the strength, balance, and flexibility needed to obtain the final form of the pose. This is why it is called yoga practice. We practice to temper our vessel and create our own support to open our bodies and transform on a mental, physical, emotional and energetic level.
This can be challenging for beginners and even experienced practitioners. Developing and initiating your own practice can become overwhelming if you do not know where to start. What poses should I do and how should the poses be sequenced? Yoga for Small Spaces/Chair Yoga provides the knowledge, ideas, and concepts so that any person regardless of age and ability has access to the expertise needed to create a successful yoga practice. Instructing a variety of populations has inspired me to integrate my knowledge and create a product that any individual can replicate. The instructions and ideas are used to assimilate this knowledge into your own practice and experiences. Allow your practice to be a manifestation of the beauty that pulsates in your heart to be the best you can be on all levels!
Please see the yoga video that describes the three things you do every day. Stand, Sit and Forward Bend.
See Videos at Yoga Me Fit.
By Christine Ristuccia, M.S. CCC-SLP,
Speech Pathologist Entrepreneur
I work at a school as a speech language pathologist with children who have stuttering problems, difficulty producing their sounds or are unable to express themselves due to lack of vocabulary or understanding what others say to them.
When the kids first walk into my room before doing yoga, they are full of energy, so it’s challenging for them to sit down in a chair, focus and learn the lesson for the day.
I can sense their frenetic energy as they sit at the table. Instead of starting the lesson and having to stop due to fidgeting and frenetic energy, I incorporate four-to-five yoga moves which connect breath with movement and cross the midline of the body (e.g. right arm crosses over the left arm). Research has shown that crossing the midline of the body with movement helps to coordinate the two hemispheres (sides) of the brain and that the two sides begin to work together in a synergistic manner.
Another benefit of doing yoga in a learning environment is that yoga moves incorporate knowledge of basic directional concepts such as right and left, up and down. Kids who have challenges with learning these concepts required for following verbally presented instructions in the classroom greatly benefit from learning through yoga.
Following a series of five yoga moves combined with mindful breathing, I decided to interview the students. The general consensus was that after yoga their brains felt ready to learn, whereas before, they were not.
I have noticed a profound difference in my student’s ability to focus, understand and respond to their speech therapy lessons before and after yoga. I’ve seen a difference even after only three-to-five minutes of combining breath with movement.
Yoga is not only great exercise for the body physically. It is also a wonderful way to relax the mind and body, helping to improve children’s reception for learning and speech. Yoga is increasingly being recognized and popularized for its health benefits, but is less known for its significant benefits for mental health, learning and cognitive benefits. Yogic uplifts our mood, reinforces natural kinetic learning, brings clarity to make better decisions, and increases language reception and retention. This combination of health and wellness benefits make yoga the perfect addition to the classroom curriculum.
If you are a teacher who would like to introduce yoga to the classroom, here are 5 easy tips to get started.
- Get your students moving and talking while they are moving. The body needs to move, and when the body is moving, you’ll observe how your students increase their focus and reception for learning.
- Read the energy of your students and react based on how they respond. As you practice different yoga moves and breathing exercises you will get a better sense of which ones your students most enjoy depending on their energy and mood levels, day to day.
- Focus on breathing. Get your students focused on simply inhaling and exhaling, concentrating on each breath. Teach them that they can use breathing exercises, anywhere, anytime, to regain focus and decrease stress and negative emotions.
- Connect breath with movement. One yoga technique that is great for connecting breath with movement is called Ocean Breath. Stand tall on both feet. Raise the arms high over the head so that the fingers are pointing to the sky. Inhale deeply through the nose and then powerfully exhale through the mouth, and lower the arms. Repeat for one minute. This is called ocean breath because the breathing sounds like the sounds of the ocean. Try this simple, yet powerful, technique with your students before a therapy session or class and observe their changes.
- Make sure that you are paying attention to the alignment of your students’ bodies as they practice different yoga poses. Feet should be parallel, the knees in line with the second toe, hips pointed forward and shoulders over the hips.
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About Melissa Green