This week YogaVision connects with Smita Bhavnani, mother and Yogi about Yoga for the Special Child in New Delhi, India.
How did you get into yoga?
As a young girl, I used to watch my father practise yoga at home. I watched him in awe as he glided with ease through each posture. He is a fighter pilot with the Indian Air Force. Yoga helped him deal with his high stress job. Yoga was ingrained in me and as a young adult I joined a yoga centre where I practised and learnt yoga.
What keeps you practicing?
It keeps me centred. It keeps me connected and at peace with myself. I meditate regularly, & after a good yoga practise, meditation becomes easier to slip into and more intense than it would be otherwise. Initially it was the drive to stay fit and toned, but not anymore. I have realised that Yoga is an internal process and regular practise keeps me sane and focussed being a single mother of 2 & juggling multiple schedules.
Teaching Yoga is a huge responsibility. As a teacher it’s more than just teaching postures. It’s about enabling the person to connect with themselves, to see beyond their physicality and opening up their minds to what is beyond. Besides the benefits, Yoga touches every individual differently and leads to growth. To see a person grow and take home something positive keeps me inspired. Besides Yoga, my children keep me inspired and wanting to be the best in everything I do as I know they are watching me at every step.
How did you start teaching children with special needs?
The universe leads you to the path that you’re meant to be on, I’ve always wanted to work with Kids with Special Needs. After completing my advanced training as a Sivananda Yoga Teacher, I had the privilege to be personally trained in India by Sonia Sumar-Yoga for the Special Child. I invited her to India in March 2010 and organized the venue and workshop. 20 people including therapists, yoga teachers and mothers of special children. It was the first time Yoga for the Special Cjild conducted this type of workshop in New Delhi.
Help us understand the needs of Special Kids:
One cannot really cover all the various needs that people with special needs might have, but to mention a few: muscle tone (low & high), looseness/ tightness of joints, breathing difficulties, being stressed out by the environment (sounds, lights, people), poor motor control, reduced physical mobility, differences in verbalisation, communication difficulties, imbalances in the sensory system, extreme insecurity or unwillingness to leave the home or secure environment, being stressed out by frustrations & meltdowns.
Yoga works wonders. Regular practise influences children's behaviours and their moods. Yoga works directly on the neuro-endocrine system along with all other body systems. Consistent, patient & long term practise bring about wonderful physical changes too: muscle & joint strength, straighter & stronger spines, improved fine motor control, calmer & relaxed bodies.
Specific benefits include:
Teaches listening skills & being focussed for longer periods of time
Challenging poses teaches them not to give up
Stretching helps relieve stress from tightened muscles leading to greater relaxation
Deep breathing helps children relax and relieves stress.
Helps slow down overactive children & vice versa
More than anything else & that why I love teaching this practise is these kids begin to experience self confidence, happiness & genuinely saying ‘I’m OK in my body’
What are your future teaching plans?
India has a dearth of quality Yoga teachers who are passionate about working with people with Special Needs, I hope to be able to, not just teach more kids, but be able to inspire more teachers to bring about a difference in this area
Do your children practice yoga?
My daughter who is 4 loves practising yoga with me. My son prefers soccer at the moment.
To contact Smita, write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org