By John Bair
For many people who have family members with special physical needs, finding ways for them to relieve pain, improve their mobility and to improve how they feel is often a major priority. Some have turned to yoga for these major physical benefits.
The New York Post recently featured a story in which an 86-year-old woman discovered the healing power of yoga to treat the effects of a herniated disc, scoliosis (a curvature in the spine that usually develops during puberty), and osteoporosis (a condition that weakens the bones and can lead to spine curvature.
The combination of her back problems made it difficult to walk. “I tried everything: acupuncture, a physical therapist and seeing a chiropractor,” she told the Post. “You feel good temporarily, but [I’d be] in pain again soon after.
”The woman began working with Rachel Jesien, a certified yoga instructor who also suffers from scoliosis and specializes in back care. Rachel wore a brace for five years as a child to treat her condition and later discovered the healing effects of yoga. She now works closely with her clients to empower them “…to have an innate understanding of both their structural and habitual patterning. Through conscious awareness-building techniques, Rachel provides her students with the tools needed to begin their healing process.
”According to Jesien, yoga under the guidance of a back care specialist can strengthen both bone density and muscles and alleviate back pain caused by certain conditions.
During their sessions once a week, she learned restorative poses and stretches—and after just one month, the 86-year-old was able to walk again. After two months, she knew which poses to use to relieve pain in a specific area of her body.
Houman Danesh, M.D., director of integrative pain management at Mount Sinai Hospital, told the Post that people should go to a physical therapist first for a proper diagnosis, but one-on-one care with a specialist is key.
Yoga for People with Special Needs
According to the group Asanas for Autism and Special Needs, one of the most important skills yoga can teach is the ability to cope and respond to stress, tension, worry, anxiety and depression.
Many people with language or sensory processing difficulties experience anxiety, which activates the nervous system’s sympathetic system. Responsible for the body’s “fight or flight” response, the sympathetic system can negatively impact a person’s health, mood and behavior.
By understanding and employing certain breathing strategies and yoga poses, Asanas for Autism and Special Needs explains that a person has the tools to voluntarily activate the parasympathetic nervous system—responsible for rest and relaxation.
“Children with autism and special needs can learn coping strategies through the practice of yoga so they may live calmer, happier, more peaceful and healthier lives,” the website explains.