To give each of the children ROLES, contemplate on a THEMEfor each Student and the whole Class.

Never leave them behind. Each student can be successful.

Video – Yoga Class – Group of Teenagers

On every Sunday children with special needs have been studying yoga to gain more awareness of their bodies and minds. Yoga can be a life affirming experience, trough study, students with special needs learn how to become stronger, improve their self esteem and reach new heights of progress.

For teachers their rewards can be equally great.

Class structure:


1) Welcoming arriving yogis ::: Craft Table, stydying yoga books, yoga pose cut out, coloring, describing the drawing→ Chalkboard (white board, a teacher’s drawing of dotted sequence of yoga poses in a vinyasa style: Mountain, Forward Bend, Plank, Up Dog, Down Dog Right Leg Lounge, Down Dog, Left Leg Lounge, Jump to Plank, Mountain) → [Connecting the line of the poses later during the class], spelling the pose and getting familiar with poses and each other, during this time at the table). This allows us to get to know where each child is presently according to their emotions, moods, and other needs to be addressed.

2) Circle TimeIt Is a Class Ritual ::: Warm Up, breathing with counting, togetherness, unison, team work. (Note: one (cool) parent was involved as well). Some yogis do not participate fully (off and on the mat), due sensory issues, mood, etc., they can be then working with someone (teacher of the assistant) in one-on-one setting or doing “craft”.

3) Individual work, partnered at times ::: Even thought a student is working on the pose on their own mat/space, the Students work still together as a class [this keeps the session interesting and engaging]. Are they Islands on their own? “Yes and No”. Bodymind activities are all about interaction. It is OK to take a break from the group and “separate”, do some drawing, sit aside, get a breather, yet each one is part of the WHOLE.

4) Group Work ::: Peer empowerment, encouragement, observation, community, hi5’s, reinforcing in every possible way, focusing the group, counterparts, looking what others do and how, counting for the other kids for balance and strength building, enriching peer social interactions.

5) Relaxation ::: During the Relaxation each student is digesting the session’s activities, the movements, the excitements, emotions, as well as absorbing the benefits of each pose. May be done with some music or props like blankets, eye pads, massage, etc…

At the end of the class each student is in their own body, each in their own thoughts. Bodymind activities like yoga, cannot change students by themselves, after the class, after the poses, students must process what they have learned and use it in a positive way in the world. As teachers we can only help them find this path for themselves.


You may want to keep a journal and if working with an assistant find time to discuss your observations, keep documentation, a log, photos/progression, contemplate on each individual’s theme, and teaching challenges, have staff discussing things they observed regularly, have a theme for yourself, think about your class and each of the individuals. How can you support them?

Mechanics of the movement:

  • Step by step poses that are drawn on the whiteboard

  • Modeling by a teacher or a student who is good a yoga poses and can do that part (role/theme),

  • Using cards and other visuals to understand the pose and understand the mechanics involved

  • Using weight to create a deeper body awareness.

  • Class is loud → some of the children are sensitive to white noise in your class → you want to modulate SOFT – LOUD, HARD – EASY, HIGH – LOW , LONG – SHORT, FAST – SLOW, HEAVY – LIGHT, DARK- BRIGHT, BIG – SMALL modulation is very important → it aids the children in SELF REGULATION and control the inner moods.

  • Support points when assisting with a pose: Like a Laundry Line: must be tight on both ends!

  • Activate the muscle by moving along the BONE.

  • Activate the spine by supporting extension and stretch. Try this: Press firmly on top of their head or press near the tail bone/sacrum in child pose or butterfly pose, massage (pounding gently) on their back in a spreading motion “up”, shake the torso with two hands on both sides of the rib cage, in a motion, with hands moving up, along the ribs.


How to support the child’s body for balance:

  • No grabbing, pulling or yanking by hands or feet, or heads

  • Work from the torso and lift by armpits

  • Embrace shoulders

  • Support the chest

  • Work the muscles along the bones

  • In a mountain pose stand with them

  • Use markers

  • In tree pose utilize nice and tight snug


Ideas for working with a hyperactive student:

  • running, then offer an activity of low energy (slow and heavy)

  • vigorous massage, pounding

  • Grounding by placing weight on their whole body and covering the body like a big mountain, count to 20 and then slowly take it off of the child’s body and then perhaps do “swinging” them, next try Butterfly pose and again some massage and pounding.

  • Use Extremes → high/high energy low/low energy. Then you may want to repeat the whole cycle 2 or 3x in between an activity. Keep track (observe) of their sensory needs and re-visit often to modulate.

  • Pushing something heavy

  • Carrying something heavy

  • Spinning

  • Swinging

  • Trampoline

  • Challenging poses, i.e.: asymmetrical (where applicable). Doing a difficult – to the particular child – yoga pose based on levels of Symmetry, Balance, Energy, Range of space i.e.: twisting), perhaps boat pose, locust, tree, etc. If the children do not have cognitive skills then for these children “left and right” concept may be difficult and challenging and good to slowing down their hyper energies.

    If the pose requires more focus this pose required more work => challenge!

Discussion continues of the poses from the 24 poses poster, based on level of difficulty, the degree of effort/energy (WORK) [flexibility, balance (symmetry)]. (Pictures or drawings)

  • child pose (baby pose) → stretched back, neck, arms, rounded back, forward fold

  • butterfly → open hips and forward bend – spinal stretch, support the knees on the pillows

  • bridge → back bend, hips lifted of the floor

  • locust → torso on the ground and head and limbs off the floor

  • boat → balancing on the bottom

  • twist → torso on the floor, crossing mid-line, legs to left or right of the torso

Why did you choose certain pose?

What is in the pose you want to build? There are poses for them that require a lot of energy like twisted poses, esp. when keeping knees off the ground. Do you want them to balance or build stamina or increase flexibility of certain parts of the body?

Adapt the pose but keep in mind the purpose of the pose and the child you are working with. Analyze the pose on different levels, from hard to easy and adapt them.

What is the goal of the pose itself, what is the energy of the pose, how much work it takes (flexibility, symmetry, and balance) and will it be helpful for the child.

Use of Props:

  • Feather, Pinwheel, Straws and light balls, candles etc. (breathing)

  • Weights (grounding, building stamina, body awareness)

  • Blocks for support in balancing asymmetrical poses

  • Yoga Balls and Mats

  • Balance Beams (high energy – low energy)

  • White Board

  • Hand and Foot stickers

  • Cards, Yoga books and or Coloring Pages with poses images are helpful at the beginning of the class, during the time when everyone is coming in and getting ready, or during the individual work, relaxation and time when it gets a bit overwhelming for some)

  • Table or space, where the students can do craft, eat a snack, draw the poses, spell the poses, warm up, check in

  • Parent/Caregiver

  • Sort of a prop: Establishing Rules at the beginning of the class/session.