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sun salutations and special needs kidsThe yoga pose sequence know as Sun Salutation, Salute to the Sun, or Surya Namaskar, is among the most commonly used yoga sequences. Typically this flowing sequence is used at the beginning of a yoga class to wake up the body, promote strength and flexibility, as well as introduce a cardiovascular component for students. These benefits also ring true when using the Sun Salutation with children. However, this sequence is overflowing with sensory-based benefits to promote regulation in children, too.

Here are a few ways to change your child’s regulation state through adapting the sun salutation from a sensory standpoint. These can be done one-on-one with children, in a class or group setting, as well as in the classroom setting.  Take the time to familiarize yourself with the sequence prior to reading this article. See Too Cold Outside to Swing? Warm Up With a Yoga Sequence by Mira Binzen.
This style can be used when your goal is to alert the sensory systems for a day of class, prior to a test, or to get a group of kids to focus.

  • Stretch: Encourage the children to imagine someone is pulling on their arms and legs while they move through the sequence. Use your body to show them stretching up towards the sky and reach down as far as you can to your toes. Here you can even add an extended leg in downward dog pose.
  • Speed: A basic rule of promoting regulation within a child is to meet them where they are in relation to energy level. If your child/children appear tired or sluggish, use the sequence to start slow and move to fast waking up their body. Kids often love to go as fast as they can through the sequence, which often results in poor form during poses and lots of giggling and fun. To refocus to an even regulation state, do one last sequence at a “just right” pace.

Focus and Organize

  • Substance Salutations: Have your child/children pick a “substance” they would like to pretend to be in while doing their Sun Salutations. A great example is a giant bowl of mud. While moving through the yoga poses, children can imagine pushing through the heavy mud adding resistance and heavy work to muscles.
  • Weighted: Place wrist or ankle weights on children while moving through the yoga sequence to provide proprioceptive input to their muscles.
  • Balance: Focus on body awareness and core activation by having your child/children stand on one leg while moving through the yoga sequence.

Calm and Quiet

  • Breathe and Move: Focus on inhales and exhales with each pose of the sequence. Encourage your children to hear their own breath while they move through the poses. As an example, over emphasize your own breath so children are able to hear when to inhale and when to exhale during the sequence.

The Sun Salutation can be a great part of your yoga class, social group, or even just placed within your family’s natural sensory diet. Give these modifications a try for yourself and notice how they change your own regulation state. Then, give it a try with your child and have them tell you how each modification changes the way they feel.