Yoga Makes Its Way to Special Education Program

Students in yoga positions during an Adaptive Yoga for Health and Mindfulness session. (Photo by Aaliyah Khan).

Students in yoga positions during an Adaptive Yoga for Health and Mindfulness session. (Photo by Aaliyah Khan).

Aaliyah Khan, Editor in Chief

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The special needs classes are participating in a yoga program new to Warren Hills this year.

The Adapted Yoga for Health and Mindfulness class aims to help students with special needs to increase overall strength, endurance, balance, coordination skills, and promote mindfulness and stress reduction.

The class, led by Jennifer Riley, a certified teacher in special needs yoga, was introduced initially to the Warren Hills Middle School before being offered at the high school as well.

“I have been doing a weekly group at the middle school for five years,” she said.  “Over the summer, I had a chance to do it with the high school students and there was such positive feedback from the students and the teachers we asked if I could do it at the high school this year.”

The class meets every Tuesday and entails doing yoga for about thirty minutes, with a guided visualization at the end.

According to Infinite Therapy Solutions, a therapist-owned private practice in Bayonne and West Orange, New Jersey that specializes in physical therapy for all ages, “Regular [special needs yoga] practice promotes muscular endurance and physical strength since poses often involve using multiple muscles in the body at once. It also helps build flexibility, coordination, body awareness, and balance.”

Not only does special needs yoga have physical benefits, but it can help emotion and behavior in people with special needs. It can help people with special needs to feel more included in activities, and aid in regulating emotions more efficiently.

The class has received positive feedback from the Warren Hills community, and has also had the support of yoga studios, such as Yoga Loka in Frenchtown, New Jersey.

“We were so grateful that Yoga Loka and fellow teachers from Warren Hills were willing to donate mats to help get our yoga group started, the response was really exciting,” said Warren Hills Special Education teacher Cheryl Yanoff.

Future plans for the program include expansion, meeting more often, and getting the community more involved and aware of such programs the school offers.

“We are hoping that the program will continue and we look forward to offering the multiple disabilities/autistic students more opportunities at Warren Hills High School,” said Yanoff.

Riley said she most enjoys watching students benefit from the program and yoga in general.

“I look forward to watching the students increase and improve with their physical, emotional, and behavioral skills,” she said.