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Physical therapy (PT) can be extremely beneficial for children and individuals diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP). Therapy usually aims to improve and maintain elements of function including strength, flexibility, range of motion, balance, postural control, and managing possible spasticity. So naturally, yoga for cerebral palsy can be a fun and beneficial way to achieve these goals.

Physical Therapy and Yoga

Yoga is an ancient practice (that dates back as far as 5,000-10,000 years ago) that has recently begun to make a name for itself in the world of physical therapy. Yoga challenges many different systems fo the body at once. It helps to focus our thoughts, meditate, increase our core strength, and flexibility.

The practice of yoga has been known to improve strength, coordination, flexibility, range of motion, and overall mobility. One of the many great things about the practice of yoga as a means of therapy is that it can be adapted to fit the needs of any individual. And by targeting several different systems at once with adaptive yoga poses, someone with Cerebral Palsy can greatly benefit from yoga as well.

Benefits of Yoga for Cerebral Palsy:

• Strengthening- maintaining positions using the body as its own source of resistance works at increasing muscle strength in areas of low tone.
• Stretching- maintaining positions that put the muscles in a stretched position aids in lengthening muscles in areas of high tone.
• Improved Respiration- individuals who find themselves in prolonged sitting positions (whether it be in a wheelchair or otherwise), will often develop tightness in the muscles that aid in opening the chest for proper breathing techniques. Certain yoga poses position the upper body in a way that opens and stretches the muscles of respiration that are often tightened and inhibited by prolonged sitting, and/or poor posture.
• Balance/ Posture- many poses incorporate elements of trunk and core stabilization, which has a positive overall effect on postural control. Core strength, combined with extremity strength, plays a large role in improving functional balance.
• Mindfulness- the traditional and holistic approach to the practice of yoga promotes relaxation and increased awareness of self, positioning in space, and movement of the body as a whole.

Adapting yoga poses

One of the great things about yoga, is that poses can be adapted to fit the needs of practically any individual. There is not one “correct” way to adapt a pose, as it may be different for everyone. With a little creativity, outside-the-box thinking, and sometimes some physical assistance, virtually any yoga pose can be adapted. For safety, always discuss these options with your physical therapist before attempting them on your own.

 

Above, an instructor has introduced bolsters to adapt the Downward Dog pose to fit the needs of the client, who may lack the strength to maintain the position on her own. (http://www.newmobility.com/2017/06/adaptive-yoga/)

 

Interested in learning more about how we include Yoga in our treatments? Visit HERE to schedule a call or discovery visit at one of our facilities to speak with a therapist about whether Yoga Therapy could benefit you.

More Resources:

The National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability have several videos on YouTube that demonstrates several poses that may be adapted for children with varying levels of disabilities. Use the link below to view one of their videos.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dq1XBAkIZEM
• For more information on adaptive yoga for cerebral palsy, visit:
https://www.cerebralpalsyguidance.com/cerebral-palsy/treatment/yoga/
https://yogainternational.com/article/view/how-yoga-can-benefit-children-with-cerebral-palsy
• For some added fun, look into purchasing a deck of yoga cards to make a game out of it! https://www.amazon.com/Yoga-Pretzels-Cards-Tara-Guber/dp/1905236042/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1518706884&sr=8-2&keywords=yoga+pretzel+cards+for+kids