By Hannah Gould, M.Ed., RYT
November 25, 2014
Life has afforded me the pleasure and privilege of working with hundreds of young people with special needs. I have been a paraprofessional and a special education teacher in public schools. I have run social skills groups in a gym-based therapy program. I have tutored, coached, camp-counseled, and otherwise served children with special needs for the past fifteen-plus years.
I began my personal exploration of yoga around the same time I began teaching. I was looking for relief from a “bad” knee and a sense of calm for my anxious mind. Yoga gave me both, and also gave me access to a vast toolbox of practices for self-awareness and self-care. At some point, the proverbial lightbulb went off, and I realized that yoga was the gift I wanted to bring to my students and their families.
Yoga Connects reflects a unique teaching methodology rooted in both special education and yoga philosophy. I have done my best to honor both traditions.
My students with autism spectrum disorders in particular have been my best teachers. Their honest and unfiltered feedback taught me the importance of structure, consistency and clear communication - and sent me humbly back to the drawing board more than a few times. Their commitment and amazing progress has shown me how powerful yoga can be. Their warm hearts and smiles have kept me energized and inspired along the way.
Yoga offers many well-documented benefits for individuals with and without special needs. Perhaps one of the most powerful and often overlooked benefits of yoga is its potential to deepen our sense of connection. Practicing yoga strengthens the connection between mind and body, between sensory experience and the world around us, and between ourself and others. In the hands of parents and caregivers, the trusting relationship provides the safe ground for yoga to be a successful experience.
Yoga Connects becomes the bridge to deepening that sense of connection. Yoga Connects is an open invitation for caregivers and young people with special needs to move together, breathe together, relax together, and share all of the benefits of yoga together.