September is National Yoga Month

September is National Yoga Month                        

 Interview with Kate Meyer, OT at our Port Royal Lowcountry Therapy Center location:

First of all, can you please introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about what you do here at LTC, and how long you’ve been here?

I’m Kate, I’m an OT.  I specialize in a couple of areas: feeding/oral motor, handwriting, self-regulation, yoga, and executive functioning.  I have been here for almost 5 years, in February. 

The reason I am interviewing you today is to talk about yoga, since September is National Yoga Month (get more info here!).  Can you talk to me a bit about your experience with yoga?

I am a certified Kidding Around Yoga teacher.  There are many programs out there for kid's yoga (it does differ from adult yoga, which is one thing I like about it).  I got started because I had a child that had a diagnosis of autism, had poor self-regulation skills, and I was just trying to find another avenue for him.  I pulled some yoga one day, tried doing a couple things with him, and he loved it.  He actually had his dad and him doing it together.  It was very motivating for him.

Can you talk a little bit about how yoga benefits children, specifically children who may be getting services here?

Yoga in itself, has many components as to how it can be beneficial to the human body: you have a lot of stretching; you have strengthening you can do with it; it builds up endurance (not only for the muscles, but also for the mind); you’re learning to follow sequences and follow directions; you learn body awareness – knowing where you are in space (are you upside down?, where is your leg?, where is your arm?); it teaches you placement in that space (like having body awareness to remain in your space, such as on a towel); you have to be able to pay attention; you work on deep breaths; you’re doing kind of a 2-step motion with yourself – you’re moving, but you’re also breathing, too. 

Breathing is so important.  When we get upset, we do those quick breaths – bunny breaths – that is excitatory, it gets your heart pumping, it gets your nervous system fired up.  Our kids need to learn the opposite – we need to learn how to calm ourselves.   You also learn some self-esteem and some confidence.  There are harder poses that kids can try and work their way up to.  It builds self-esteem up for kids that may not be athletic or have opportunities to be in sports, they can still get those movements, they can build those skills.

One thing I love is that when you’re trying to give these ideas and strategies to families, they don’t always have the means to buy certain things, and yoga is one of those things you can take anywhere with you.  It’s free, you don’t need anything, you can use a towel as a yoga mat, or a carpet, it doesn’t really matter, you don’t need a lot of supplies with it.  If you can learn yoga at a young age, and you can learn those self-regulation skills, it can take you so far in life.

What are some of the differences between yoga for children and yoga for adults? 

With kids yoga, it’s a lot of fun.  You do a lot of fun games, you do a lot of moving, then you have a couple things that you do, like a story that goes along with yoga poses, and then at the end there’s usually a ‘secret garden’ – which is meditation for adults; for kids it’s just a relaxing time, to let your body be still.  A lot of our kids don’t get that, their bodies and minds are constantly going, they don’t have that relaxation time.  We use it like painting a picture, usually after they’ve already gone through a lot of games, then we just do some visualizations: I want you to create your space, where you can always go back to, whenever you’re upset, or sad, or bored, you can go back into your space.  So I help them create their space.  First we build it, what does your space look like?  Is it at the ocean, in the forest, on a magical cloud?  Then let’s paint it, and put some things in it – a tree, a  dolphin, a horse.  Whenever you’re sad or mad or upset or bored, you can always goes back to that space.  You created it, it’s your home now, you can always go back to it. 

When you think of traditional yoga, you think, how could kids ever be that patient, and it’s nice to hear how kid’s yoga can be more active.

Yes, it differs greatly.  The games you play are short, you play multiple games.  It’s very adaptable for all ages, you can gear it towards 2 year olds, pre-teen to teen yoga does start to become more adult, kids are older and don’t want to play all the little games.   It’s great because you can vary it to the child, which is great here because it doesn’t matter what abilities a child has, you can fit yoga to fit their needs. 

There’s toe-ga – yoga for your toes, you pick up pompoms with your toes and try to put them in a bucket, working on foot-eye coordination.  There’s wheelchair yoga.  You can do pompom basketball (blowing the pompoms from your hand at a target), where they’re working on breathing, but also for us, as OTs, we’re looking at visual convergence, hand-eye coordination, bilateral integration.   Yoga is big on the idea that whatever you do to one side you do on the other, so you get that balance. 

If somebody wants to get involved, have their child, or themselves as a parent, get involved in yoga, what would you recommend as a first step?

First step, I would go online.  There are a lot of YouTube videos.  I love the Kidding Around Yoga, they actually have some music selections you can download on iTunes.  There are a lot of resources that are available online.  There’s Can Do Yoga, which is actually a yoga teacher in North Carolina.  She blogs about yoga, and she’s actually an OT.  She has a yoga studio in North Carolina for kids with special needs.  There are some awesome books, too.  There’s one by Baron Baptiste which is called My Daddy is a Pretzel, and there’s a Good Night Yoga book.  Just starting moving with your kid, it’s so important to have that piece, where the parent isn’t just telling the kid how to do it.

And you don’t have to be flexible, yoga is for anyone.  If you can move, you can do yoga!  It doesn’t have to be competitive, you’re on your mat, doing your abilities.  Pinterest has a ton of ideas, you type in kid yoga, it’s going to come up with a ton of ideas! 

Any closing remarks?

The biggest thing I love about yoga is you can take it anywhere.  That self-regulation is so important for kids to learn at an early age; it can take them so far in life. 


For a great list of articles about the benefits of yoga, check out this list!

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

© Lowcountry Therapy/Website by Hazel Digital Media