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Yoga for Special Children

Yoga therapy is not about perfecting a pose; its about connecting with a special child with love and acceptance. Many children with disabilities feel the pain of their parents and feel responsible for it, it is strongly recommended that all parents participate and practice yoga with their children as often as possible to build the bond of acceptance and trust. Unlike other therapies that may use toys and special equipment to stimulate a child's development, yoga therapy uses breath, movement, postures, and the child's voice to focus inwardly and develop concentration and entire body awareness. Its an opportunity to move a child into ease of being, opening the door of potential. Yoga is a lifestyle of sculpting one's body, mind, and spirit. When the children build trust, they believe in themselves and the possibilities are endless.

PROGRAMS:

  • Early learning: 3-6 yrs.
  • Special education: 8 - 11 yrs, boys; 11 - 14 yrs, girls
  • Integrated learning Group: 4 - 9 yrs
  • Pre Vocational training for girls: 13 - 19yrs
  • Physiotherapy & occupational therapy: babies - 10 yrs
  • Speech & Language Therapy: 1 -11 yrs

 

Yoga for the special child is a comprehensive program of yoga techniques designed to enhance the natural development of children with special needs. Our style of yoga is gentle, and therapeutic -- safe for babies and children with Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Microcephaly, Autism and other developmental disabilities. These methode also provide an effective treatment for children diagnosed with Attention Defecit Disorder, ADHD and Learning Disabilities.

Our Therapeutic program includes :

  • An integrated series of balanced yoga postures to increase body awareness, strength and flexibility
  • Specialized breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to improve concentration and reduce hyperactivity
  • An early intervention program to assure the healthy formative development of infants and toddlers

 

Yoga for the special child training programs offer a unique learning environment for children and their parents, special education teachers and  health care professionals.

DOWN SYNDROME AND YOGA

Down syndrome is a congenital disability with an overall incidence of one in every 700 births. The statistics for UAE needs to be established.  In USA the incidence of Down Syndrome in children born to 25 years old mothers is approximately 1 in 1200; the risk increases to approximately 1 in 350 for for 35 year olds and 1 in 120 for women older than 40 years. The chromosomal abnormality involved in most cases of Down syndrome is trisomy 21. As a result, the affected person has 47 chromosomes in all body cells, instead of the normal 46.

Persons with Down syndrome are shorter than average, with truncated limbs. Some other common characteristics of Down syndrome include an epicanthic fold of skin extending from the eyelid over the inner canthus of the eye, strabismus (crossed eyes) and (low muscle tone). Motor development is slow; and instead of walking by 12 to 14 months as most children do, children with Down Syndrome usually learn to walk between 15 to 36 months. Language and cognitive development are also significantly delayed. The majority of children with Down Syndrome are also susceptible to certain medical problems; obstructed digestive tracts and childhood lukemia.

Yoga poses help to stretch, tone and strengthen the entire body. Asanas also benefit the internal organs and help to balance and revitalize the endocrine glands. For this reason children with Down Syndrome who practice yoga stay slim and flexible, while those who do not practice yoga tend to put on weight as they age. In conjunction with yogic breathing exercises, which have a beneficial effect on the central nervous system , aasanas facilitate the development of body awareness, concentration and memory -- vital skills for any child with a developmental disability.

CEREBRAL PALSY AND YOGA

Cerebral Palsy is a disorder caused by injury to the motor areas in the brain, affecting the muscle tone and ability to control movement and posture. In most cases, the onse5t occurs during pregnancy or childbirth. In other cases,
infections such as meningitis or traumatic brain injury may result in cerebral palsy. There are three types of movement disturbances associated with cerebral palsy :

  1. Spastic cerebral palsy, where muscles are tense, contracted, and resistant to movement. This is the most common form of cerebral palsy, especially in low birth weight.
  2. Athetoid cerebral palsy, where the affected parts of the body perform involuntary writhing movements, such as turning, twisting, facial grimacing, the motor centers, not the other parts of the brain. In the past the "strange" and "unnatural" movements were diagnosed as signs of mental or emotional disturbance.
  3. Ataxic cerebral, where the main characteristic is lack of balance and co-ordination and altered depth perception, due to damage to the cerebellum. Ataxia involves difficulty in maintaining balance and swaying when standing.

 

Sometimes several areas of the brain are involved, so the description of a particular child's condition may involve several of the above terms and symptoms. Also, the severity of the disability will vary from child to child, ranging from mild awkwardness to inability to walk. Other conditions associated with cerebral palsy may include seizures, ADHD, learning disabilities vision problems and speech impairment.

The practice of yoga poses, followed by deep relaxation, can help to significantly reduce high muscle tone, which is characteristic of most children with cerebral palsy. Holding an asana gives the muscles and tendons a relaxing stretch, releasing overall stress and tightness throughout the musculature and around the joints. At the same time that asanas are relaxing to the body, they also provide just enough resistance to exercise to lower muscle tone areas of the body. In this way asanas actually improve both high and low muscle tone problems in children with cerebral palsy.

Perhaps the most important aspect of asana practice for children with cerebral palsy is its ability to stretch and realign the spine. Asanas flex and twist the spine in all directions. This scientifically designed series of stretches and counter stretches helps to create more space between the vertebrae and reduce pressure on the disks and nerves that radiate out of the spine. Reducing the pressure on these radial nerves facilitates the release of muscular tension throughout the body and enhances overall nerve function. As a result, the child is able to develop a greater range of movement and coordination, as well as greater independence.

MICROCEPHALY AND YOGA

The term Microcephaly simply means "small head" and is used when the head size is less than that of 97% to 99% of the population. In most cases, microcephaly also reflects a reduction in the size of the brain. The effects of microcephaly vary considerably, from very mild to profound developmental delays. Microcephaly may be present from birth (congenital) or it may develop in the first few years of life. Some children with microcephaly have multiple diagnoses, including cerebral palsy, epilepsy, visual impairment and feeding difficulties.

Yoga poses (asanas) provide a gentle, yet effective way to stimulate blood circulation and tone the internal organs., which is vital for the those who are less physically active. Yogic breathing exercises (pranayama) increase oxygenation of the blood, which strengthens the central nervous system. When asanas and pranayama are coupled together with the practice of deep relaxation, the benefits are greatly enhanced motor and cognitve skills.. With regular yoga practice, children with microcephaly develop greater body awareness and enhanced cognitive and motor skills. The end result is an overall improvement in their quality of life.

AUTISM AND YOGA

Autism is a developmental disorder that typically appears in the first three years of life.  This disorder makes it difficult for children to communicate verbally and non verbally, to socially interact with others and to relate to the outside world.  Many autistic children, however, also exhibit remarkable abilities in the areas of art, music and math.  Autism used to be a rare disorder, occuring in about one in 1500 children.  Since the late 1980's however, the autism rate has risen sharply even in the Middle East.  Current estimates need to be done through the support of interested health related organisations.

For decades , most psychiatrists considered autism to be a psychological disorder.  It is now generally acknowledged that autism is caused by biological factors, but there is little agreement over which factors are most important, and exactly how they cause autism.  Unlike other disorders, autism is defined not by its cause, but by its symptoms, which may include purposeless, repetitive behaviors such as hand-flapping, rocking or opening and closing doors.  Language skills develop slowly or not at all, the meaning of words is often ignored and gestures are used instead of words.  Some individuals with autism may exhibit aggressive or self-injurious behavior and resistance to change in routine.  Others may seem to lack common sense, throw tantrum for no apparent reason or obsess over an idea, object or person.  Children with autism may also experience sensitivities to sights, sounds, touch, odors and flavors, and have strong reactions to them.

Although autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors, children and adults may exhibit many different combinatins of these behaviors, to any degree of severity.  Two children, both with the same diagnosis, may act very differently and have various aptitudes.

The first step in teaching Yoga to a student with autism is to establish a strong bond with the child.  To do this, we the faculty of Gems Of Yoga need to enter the world that the child lives in- to meet the child on his or her own level, so to speak.  Only then will we be able to gain the child's complete confidence.  Massage, music, dance rhymes and stories are some of the different techniques that we would like to use to connect with the child in co-operation with the other teachers.

As we and the students at the centre will gradually develop a foundation of mutual trust and friendship, then we will introduce some of the yoga poses ( aasanas) and breathing exercises ( Pranayama) that will help the autistic child out of his or her shell and into the world of social interaction.  After the student becomes familia with these introductory poses, we may progressively add more aasanas to the routine, as well as deep relaxation.  The combination of aasanas, pranayamas and deep relaxation will strengthen the child's nervous system, increase overall health and facilitate the development of body awareness and concenteration.  By establishing optimal physiological and psychological integrity, yoga therapy helps autistic children gain new motor, communication and social skills.  The end result is an overall improvement in their  quality of life.

ADHD AND YOGA

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a behavioral disorder formally defined as a significant deficiency in age- appropriate attention, impulse control and rule- governed behavior, which manifests in early childhood.  Associated behaviors include: hyperactivity; speaking or acting before one thinks; difficulty in following instructions, poor organizational skills; restlessness; impatience; forgetfulness; low self esteem; and poor social skills.  Children with ADHD find it difficult to slow down; even when they want to; often they are so hurried that they seem clumsy and unco-ordinated.

Some experts believe that ADHD is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, but there is no documented proof that this is actually the case.  The incidence of ADHD varies from 3-15% for school age population, depending on the strictness of diagnosis. Sometimes referred to as ADD/WH or " minimal brain dysfunction," children with AHD generally do not perform well in school, though most of them test at average or above average intelligence.

Currently, more than four million children in USA have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.  The statistics for UAE have to be found out.  There are many factors contributing to this behavioral disorder: TV Violence; poor nutrition; prenatal drugs used by parents; sensory overload; pollution;crowding;and the breakdown of the family structure.  Yoga uses physical postures ( asanas ), breathing exercises ( Pranayamas ) and deep relaxation techniques to calm and strengthen the Central Nervous System.  It helps children and teenagers with ADHD get in touch with their bodies in a relaxed and non-competitive way.  There is also a spiritual side to Yoga that grounds its practitioners in their own silence and internal awareness - something that is becoming increasingly difficult to experience with the frenzied pace of life today.

Children with ADHD often experience learning delays due to their hyperactivity and destructibility.  We from Gems Of Yoga will first introduce pranayama and a few aasanas to these children before attempting to teach them an entire yoga routine.  This will help them to calm down enough to follow instructions.  Alternate nostril breathing will be of particular benefit to children with ADHD because of its ability to calm the mind and to balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain.  Teaching these children proper respiration is going to be an important aspect of their yoga training.  Once the child with ADHD is able to follow instructions, we will gradually introduce more aasanas and the deep relaxation portion of the yoga routine.

LEARNING DISABILITIES AND YOGA

In UAE we need to calculate the statistics for this learning disability.  Approximately 15-20% of the U.S. population have some form of learning disability, according to figures derived from the latest research conducted under the auspices of the National Institutes of Health.  Learning disabilities impede a person's ability to store, process or recall information.  They can affect a child's ability to read, write, speak, or compute math, and often impact the student's ability to acquire socialization skills.

Yoga provides an effective therapeutic alternative for children with learning disabilities.  Yogic breathing exercises (Pranayama ) stimulate the Central Nervous System and strengthen the immune system.  In combination with yoga poses (aasanas) and deep relaxation, pranayama facilitates the development of body awareness, balance, memory and concentration.  Students with dyslexia often receive special benefit from practicing the yoga eye exercises, which strengthen the optic nerve, relax facial muscles and stimulates various centers of the brain.  These exercises improve the eye's ability to focus and enhance word recognition skills.  Eye exercises are only one example of how yoga can be adapted to minimize specific learning deficits; however, Yoga for the special Child is primarily a holistic therapy, and as such, its main objective is to enhance all area of a child's development.


Yoga for Cancer Survivors

Common Sense Recommendations for Immunity For Breast Cancer

  • Avoid drugs, caffeine, alcohol and tobacco. These lower immune resistance.
  • Limit the intake of sweet foods and eliminate the use of refined white sugar altogether. Sugar impairs both lymphatic activity and the body's ability to engulf and destroy bacteria
  • Drink plenty of water. Liquids keep the lymphatic fluid thin and circulating easily.
  • Eat fresh green and yellow vegetables, some raw, fresh raw fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds or nut and seed oils daily. These foods provide essential enzymes, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, the essential fatty acids and zinc. These nutrients keep the thymus gland, the lymphatic system and the white blood cells functioning effectively.
  • As far as possible, eat organically grown produce.
  • Eat Barley grass and wheatgrass. These foods are rich in chlorophyll, which aids in the healing. Leafy greens should be a staple in the daily diet.
  • Switch to an immune boosting diet. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and fruits. Avoid saturated fat.
  • Snack on raw, u-roasted pumpkin seeds. These are a good source of zinc. Zinc is an important mineral for the immune system that is often deficient in the diet.
  • Use nutritional yeast regularly in soups, sauces, salads and sprinkled on cereal. This will give a boost to the immune system. It is also a good source of B vitamin.
  • Include in the diet chlorella, garlic, and pearl barley. These foods contain germanium, a trace element beneficial for the immune system. Also add kelp to the diet. Kelp contains iodine, calcium, iron, carotene, protein, riboflavin, and vitamin C, which are necessary for the immune system's functional integrity.
  • Take two small containers of yogurt (with live culture) daily.
  • Avoid over-eating. Obesity encourages immune system suppression. People who are overweight suffer from more infections than do people of normal weight.
  • Supply your immune system with adequate amounts of nutrients that promote proper immune function. Key nutrients include:

Vitamin A is very important in the body's defense system.

Vitamin C may be the single most important vitamin for the immune system. It is essential for the formation of adrenal hormones and the production of lymphocytes. Vitamin C should be taken with bioflavonoids.

Vitamin E interacts with vitamins A and C and the mineral selenium, acting as a primary antioxidant and scavenger of free radicals. Vitamin E activity is an integral part of the body's defense system.

Zinc boosts the immune response and promotes the healing of wounds when used in appropriate doses. It also helps to protect the liver.

Caution: Excessive doses (over 100 milligrams per day) may actually depress immune function.

  • Drink antioxidant ginger tea or "green drinks" daily.
  • Use spirulina. It is a naturally digestible food that aids in protecting the immune system. It supplies many nutrients needed for cleansing and healing.
  • Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol reduces the activity of white blood cells and the body's antibody responses. Low or moderate alcohol consumption seems to stimulate immune functions in a positive way. However, excessive consumption depresses immunity. The more alcohol consumed, the greater the impairment of white blood cell mobility.

  • Avoid Recreational Drugs

Drug abuse causes immune dysfunction. Heroin, morphine, and cocaine cause a variety of immune-system abnormalities. Some of the chemical components of marijuana, including tetrahydrocannabinol and cannibinoids, exert a powerful immunosuppressive effect, reducing the body's production of T cells, natural-killer cells, and interferon. The use of alcohol and drugs also increases the susceptibility to AIDS and, likely, other infections.

  • Avoid Smoking; Stay Away From Second-Hand Smoke
  • Minimize/Prevent/Manage Stress

Excessive physical and emotional stress, including depression, can rob our body of immunity. Studies have shown that reducing stress levels, increased socializing, and positive thinking can increase the activity of T cells and natural- killer cells and dramatically extend the lives of cancer patients.

  • Laughter. Laughter significantly increases the activity of T cells and other markers of healthy immune function.
  • Clear your mind of negative thoughts-think positively about yourself and life in general. Enjoy life. Surround yourself with happy people.
  • Avoid Exercising Too Much

Moderate exercise stimulates and enhances all cellular activity. However, more is definitely not better. Over-exercise stresses the immune system and can increase the risk of upper respiratory infections. Such strenuous exercises depress the activities of T cells and natural-killer cells.

Diet Therapy for Immune System

The type and the quantity of food you consume is very important for your health. Food provides the energy to your body. For a healthy immune system, the food should provide all the nutrients that are essential for good health.

Food contains several complex chemicals, micronutrients, vitamins, minerals and enzymes. For example, a small clove of garlic contains more than two hundred different chemicals. The right diet can keep you healthy, prevents infection and minimize the need for medications.

The fact that diet is very important in developing the body's resistance to infection had been recognized for thousands of years. The ancient scriptures of India documented the association between food and health in 5000 B.C. The medieval church records in England recorded the relationship between crop failures and famine and subsequent epidemics.

According to Richard P. Huemer, MD, author of "The Natural Health Guide to Beating the Supergerms," the consequences of a good or bad diet cannot be understated." Dr. Huemer has shown that HIV-positive men with a high intake of vitamins do not develop full-blown AIDS as quickly as the men who have a low intake of vitamins. Further, patients with AIDS require large doses of micronutrients to achieve and maintain normal levels of these nutrients compared to healthy persons.

Infection disturbs the nutrient levels in the body. (3) Variations in the diet result in ups and downs in immunity.

So, if you feed yourself with the right "foods," you can influence the regeneration process. You can help your body back to a healthy state that can fight the external attackers and keep it in "good shape."

Guidelines For A Healthy Diet

Here are some recommendations for healthy eating for a healthy immune system.

Eat a Low-Fat, High-Fiber Diet

A low-fat, high-fiber diet reduces your risk of degenerative diseases and improves your overall health. Soluble fiber helps move food through your digestive system quickly.

Reduce your fat intake. A high-fat diet can lead to cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. It is not enough to reduce just the fat intake. You must combine it with a high- fiber intake.

Fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains are good sources of soluble fiber. Another great source for soluble fiber is psyllium husk. Consume at least 25 grams of dietary fiber per day.

Fruits and Vegetables

Eat at least five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables per day. They are important source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals provide disease-protective effects to the body.

Protein

Adequate protein intake is important for proper immune functioning.

Protein deficiency can adversely affect all facets of immune function. If you are suffering from diseases such as cancer and AIDS, you need to supplement your diet with a high-quality protein (e.g., whey protein, soy protein isolate, and egg protein) at a dosage of 0.8 gram per 2.2 pounds of body weight. The protein will help prevent the wasting away (cachexia) associated with these conditions.

Drink Plenty of Water

Water is the body's single most important nutrient. Almost all of the body's functions rely on water. It carries nutrients to the cells; carries waste and toxins away from the cells and out of the body; maintains the body's temperature; and provides protection and cushioning for the joints and organs of the body.

We lose water constantly through physiological processes such as sweating, elimination and breathing. This water needs to be replenished. The body does not keep a reserve of water as it does with other nutrients. So, our need for water is continuous.

Experts recommend that a healthy adult should drink one and a half to two quarts of water per day. Sometimes we need more water because of accelerated loss of water due to heat, excessive sweating, diarrhea, etc. When you feel thirsty, drink water.

Oils and Essential Fatty Acids

Cold, pressed, unrefined nut or seed oil like flax seed, walnut or pumpkin seed oils contain the essential fatty acids omega-6 linoleic acid and omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid. Our bodies need essential fatty acids for many important metabolic functions. Take the oil daily on salads or in other dishes. The oils lose the critical nutrients when they are heated; so make sure you consume it cold.

Studies have shown that when your body is deficient in omega-6 linoleic acid, our immune system gets suppressed. The body converts linoleic acid into Prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that stimulate immunity.

Cold-water fish oil from salmon and mackerel is another good source for essential fatty acid.

For best results, eat fish and a salad with a dressing of unrefined, cold-pressed sunflower or walnut oils. The fatty acid of the fish helps ensure the conversion of the oil's linoleic acid to Prostaglandins.

Foods To Be Avoided

There are several foods you should avoid. The most important is sugar.

Sugar

Sugar contains no nutrients. Excessive sugar intake can deplete your body of several vitamins and minerals. We recommend that you avoid consumption of any refined food or food products.

Dr. Robert McCracken, a UCLA anthropologist, faults refined sugar for some forms of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, schizophrenia, alcoholism, and even possibly some kinds of cancer. (2) He noted that members of certain primitive tribes who consume more saturated fats than Americans, have normal blood cholesterol levels and suffer from fewer diseases than Americans. His research showed that the main difference is that they never touch refined sugar.

A high intake of sugar adversely affects the immune system. Sugar impairs the ability of white blood cells to sweep up and kill bacteria. It also robs the body of key nutrients such as zinc that is vital for the immune function.

Dr. Nancy Appleton, author of "Lick the Sugar Habit" gave 59 reasons why sugar ruins our health:

59 Reasons Why Sugar Ruins Our Health

  1. Can suppress the immune system.
  2. Can upset the minerals in the body.
  3. Can cause hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children.
  4. Produces a significant rise in triglycerides.
  5. Contributes to the reduction in defense against bacterial infection.
  6. Can cause kidney damage.
  7. Reduces high-density lipoproteins.
  8. Leads to chromium deficiency.
  9. Leads to cancer of the breast, ovaries, intestines, prostate, and rectum.
  10. Increases fasting levels of glucose and insulin.
  11. Causes a copper deficiency.
  12. Interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium.
  13. Weakens eyesight.
  14. Raises the level of neurotransmitters called serotonin.
  15. Can cause hypoglycemia.
  16. Can produce an acidic stomach.
  17. Can raise adrenaline levels in children.
  18. Malabsorption is frequent in patients with functional bowel disease.
  19. Can cause aging.
  20. Can lead to alcoholism.
  21. Can cause tooth decay.
  22. Contributes to obesity.
  23. Increases the risk of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
  24. Can cause changes frequently found in people with gastric or duodenal ulcers.
  25. Can cause arthritis.
  26. Can cause asthma.
  27. Can cause Candida albicans (yeast infections).
  28. Can cause gallstones.
  29. Can cause heart disease.
  30. Can cause appendicitis.
  31. Can cause multiple sclerosis.
  32. Can cause hemorrhoids.
  33. Can cause varicose veins.
  34. Can elevate glucose and insulin responses in oral contraceptive users.
  35. Can lead to periodontal disease.
  36. Can contribute to osteoporosis.
  37. Contributes to saliva acidity.
  38. Can cause a decrease in insulin sensitivity.
  39. Leads to decreased glucose intolerance.
  40. Can decrease growth hormone.
  41. Can increase cholesterol.
  42. Can increase the systolic blood pressure.
  43. Can cause drowsiness and decreased activity in children.
  44. Can cause migraine headaches.
  45. Can interfere with the absorption of protein.
  46. Causes food allergies.
  47. Can contribute to diabetes.
  48. Can cause toxemia during pregnancy.
  49. Can contribute to eczema in children.
  50. Can cause cardiovascular disease.
  51. Can impair the structure of DNA.
  52. Can change the structure of protein.
  53. Can make your skin age by changing the structure of collagen.
  54. Can cause cataracts.
  55. Can cause emphysema.
  56. Can cause atherosclerosis.
  57. Can promote an elevation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
  58. Can cause free radicals in the bloodstream.
  59. Lowers the enzymes' ability to function

A short fast can help improve the immune function by lowering the blood sugar levels. Fasting will significantly increase the ability of white blood cells to destroy microorganisms. Do not extend the fasting for an excessive period, since eventually the leukocytes' energy sources will become depleted.

Summary

Foods to Eat
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables, especially green, orange, and yellow vegetables and roots, all of which boost immunity
  • Beans, especially soybeans and soybean products, such as tempeh, tofu, tamari, and miso
  • Seaweeds: small amounts daily to increase trace mineral consumption
  • Nuts and seeds in very small amounts
  • Shiitake and reishi mushrooms are powerful immune boosters.
  • Chlorophyll-rich foods, such as microalgae and cereal grasses, are antiinflammatory and immune-enhancing.
Foods to Avoid

In addition to avoiding the following foods, do not eat too much food, do not eat late at night, and eat simpler food combinations.

  • Meat
  • Sugar
  • Dairy products
  • Alcohol
  • Refined foods
  • Chemicalized food
  • Processed food
  • Oils and fats (minimize)
  • Recreational drugs

 

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