When we shift from focusing on “fixing” the child to “connecting” with the child, we create a safe space that allows them to discover skills that support healing.
The yoga experience allows us to connect through presence, excitement and mindful care, all the while creating the space for children’s own bodies and minds to do the amazing things they were made to do.
When children have been abused, their bodies shut down in a completely different way. Child sexual abuse indicators can include:
- Sudden sensual fear, panic or reluctancy to be alone with certain persons
- Sudden fear of places or locations
- Regressive behaviors
- Compulsive lying or stealing
- Unexplained evidence of physical trauma to genitals
- Not sleeping/nightmares
Yoga can help children get back into their bodies without being afraid. There are many techniques we can use when children have gone through trauma:
Keep it simple – Demonstrate first and find the simplest variation of the pose for them to start from. Be sensitive to the children’s needs. Allow them to relax whenever they need to and make the class short enough for them to be able to keep their attention focused without tiring.
Breath – Help them to breathe more deeply and learn how to control and be aware of their breath through a variety of breathing exercises.
Success builds success – Always focus on the children’s strengths, as a weakness in one area often creates strength in another. If we start where it is easy for that child, they will gain confidence and slowly respond to more challenging areas. We never begin by attempting to work on the ‘issue’ first.
Sometimes I give squishy balls to children with special needs to keep squeezing while they are lying down. This helps them to keep the rest of their body still. Heavy blankets also work well.
Sensory bags are great for autistic children or even for shy children. They feel safe inside, and the contact from all sides is very comforting.
When working with children who have been abused in some way, we must make the space inviting and not scary for them. We allow them be their own guide in the class and invite them to do the poses they feel comfortable with. There is no touch/adjusting in class. If the child wants to lay down the whole time, that is fine, as that is what their body is telling them to do. Yoga is an invitation for the body and the mind. We need to hold space for children who have undergone a trauma, and in class, that is what we can do.
*All information is from the Teaching Rainbow Kids Yoga Training Manual.