Yamas for Children with Special Needs-Part 1

By Yonit Roth - September 10, 2018


            When we study how the Yamas can influence our everyday lives, on the mat and off the mat, we can see how this outward action can really alter our internal structures. The Sanskrit word “Yama” translates to “restraint”, “moral discipline”, and “moral vow”. These vows are applicable to every single human being at every single part of the world. These vows, or moral life codes, is concerned with how to peacefully and righteously interact with the world around us, but further influence how we act towards ourselves. The practice of yoga allows an individual to digest these concepts and take the lessons learned on the mat to the fluctuations of everyday life. The term “yoga” means unity, wholeness, and connectedness. We must learn how to feel whole and connected within ourselves, to unify breath, mind, and body, so that we can be at peace with the dynamic universe around us.

            The first Yama is Ahimsa. Ahimsa translates to non-violence, which influences the way we speak and act towards one another, and conversely ourselves. It teaches us to rise above the common practice of physically harming ourselves, others, and nature. Often times this happens unconsciously, as we don’t silence the noise to hear the chatter of our bodies whispering the medicine that it needs. To act in a symbiotically harmonious way we must learn to remove the negative thoughts we hold about ourselves, others, and the world around us. As we learn to walk this earth with non-violence, we generate the ability to emit harmonious frequencies that encourage others to live peacefully, and thus increasing the vibration of our global community.

            Yoga is an ideal method for children with special needs to move their bodies in a way that is non-violent or overly strenuous for them. Teachers learn how to adjust the routine so that the yoga postures have benefit for these children. It teaches them how to build flexibility and strength in the body and mind and boosts their self-confidence. The aspect of Ahimsa can teach these children, or any human in fact, to retrain their thought patterns in a way that would support their evolutionary growth. On the mat they learn to be patient with themselves, listen to what their body and minds are telling them, and recognize when they are thinking or doing something that does not serve their highest self. Learning to accommodate their own needs through body awareness is a true form of personal empowerment. This practice translates to everyday life so fluidly as they learn to take on other daily tasks with faith in themselves.

            The second Yama is Satya, which translates as truthfulness. The most obvious interpretation of this is to not tell lies. The word “Sat” translates as true essence, the true nature of something that is pure and unchangeable. While our thoughts, feelings, and emotions tend to fluctuate and ricochet back and forth, we create our own each day through the experiences of our lives. We learn to pay attention to the interchangeability of these constructs and begin practicing Satya by being honest with ourselves. We each have the habit of following the race horse that is our mind, and as the mind tends to run fast paced through several thousand thoughts per day, we believe our truth is constantly changing. However, through stillness and silence we learn to settle the energetic mind and find our true essence. When we practice this, “Chitta Vritti Nirodha”, silencing the fluctuations of the mind, we learn to respond rather than react impulsively to situations. This action allows us to adhere to an honest practice. Our life experiences become a result of this honesty and truth, rather than experiences based on fear and ignorance-based reactions.

            In light of the yoga practice, we must be completely honest to ourselves with what is needed every day and every moment. We must teach our bodies to not follow the instructions of the mind or ego to direct the movement of our practice. Instead, we find stillness and silence to listen to the voice of our body, that informs of something different each moment we tune in.

            The practice of Satya in yoga for children with special needs teaches the children and teachers to pay close attention to what is going on in the subtle body as well as beneath the surface level. Fine tuning the practice to cater to whatever disability a child has can help the child come to terms with the truth of their situation and incorporate methods starting at their personal baseline to help them each achieve wholeness. Everyone has a different Prakriti, an original and natural form or condition of any being or object, and treating each individual based on their own Prakriti “recipes” helps create the vibrational and healing field needed to achieve wellness. A child with special needs is truly no different than each of us. No matter who we are, when we step on the mat, we learn to stand in the truth of our bodies and acknowledge that our individual movement needs provide the nutrients that establish growth. We each have our own set of needs, and the practice of Satya can influence our sense of self-acceptance off the mat, to be true to whatever it is that makes us unique every moment of every day.