Yamas for Children with Special Needs-Part 2

By Yonit Roth - September 18, 2018

Previous blog we read about the first two Yamas, Ahimsa and Satya. Please read further to know more about the next Yamas.

            The next Yama is the practice of Asteya, or non-stealing. The act of stealing is the simple result of mankind’s made up desires that increase our greeds and cravings. The root cause of this is the thoughts of “I’m not good enough” which can further translate to “I don’t have enough”. This lack of faith in ourselves to generate what we need increases our awareness of fulfilling whatever “lack” we assume to be present. We thus search and search for something to fill the gap and often times do so by the means of others. The practice of Asteya allows us to develop the feeling that what we already have is enough and each individual around us is enough. This concept allows us to bask in our unified senses without the constant search for more.

            In our yoga practice we often steal a deeper experience from ourselves by allowing the mind to guide the body towards something we don’t need because we think we should be doing more. Sometimes the richest posture is rooted in the most gentle practices, yet the monkey mind tells us we should be more active. These thoughts are just examples of how we often cheat ourselves into a rigid practice and out of a harmonious one.

            Asteya off the mat can translate as hoarding, or taking more than what is needed. The difference between needs and desires are important to distinguish. The whole world is filled with colorful, fragrant,and lively objects that catch our attention and drift us away from our needs. We think we need more when it is actually just a desire. We learn to practice knowing that what we have and who we are is enough through Asteya, and helps establish a foundation of abundance into our lives.

            Many children with special needs have experienced displacement and feel a sense that because they are lacking in one area of their physical well-being, they are lacking in life. This personal mental reflection is again common amongst most people. For children with special needs, when they feel they are lacking in an area, it increases the sense of “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t have what it takes to be good enough”. Practicing the feelings of abundance can help these children feel fulfilled and enriched with their own sense of self. This abundance can can leak into other areas of their lives. By starting this practice simply on the mat, children learn to breathe and flow through a class that is catered to their needs and allows them to feel complete and in harmony with their highest self. It establishes a sense of “I can” rather than “I can’t”. The practice of Asteya begins in the mind, and we can access these mental changes through the physical movement of yoga. The practice of yoga teaches us that we are dynamic in our bodies and when we can’t go down a certain path with the body, we find a new one that works better. This is abundance. Finding what we need with whatever we presently have. This movement allows the children to feel strong, empowered, embodied, and fluid. This teaches them to practice abundance off the mat and use their energy in self-enhancing ways. 


            Brahmacharya is the next Yama, translated as celibacy or the right use of energy. The concept of Brahmacharya was traditionally used for yoga practitioners to conserve sexual energy and instead use the energy to further along development on the yogic path. However, the more modern and widely practiced interpretation of this is the right use of energy. The concept is that these actions make up the behavior that lead to the Brahman, the ultimate creator in Hindu philosophy. The question rests in our energy field and how we can use it to best walk the path towards our divine selves. To practice this, we must learn to train our senses to direct the energy away from external desires. These desires are present in the moment but are always coming and going like waves in an ocean. Instead we use this energy to find peace and happiness within ourselves and what we are given in our most natural, authentic state.

            To use this personal energy in the best way we must learn to understand our bodies. Our bodies vibrate messages throughout the day and each individual learns to listen and respond to these messages. Yoga is an all-natural happiness booster that can recreate the direction in which energy is flowing through the body. This can happen through pranayama, breath, or asana, movement. By practicing these two individually and together, we can completely alter the fluctuations of the mind and disorientations in the body so that our energetic flow is much more synchronistic, functioning at a higher plane.

            These practices of breathing and movement techniques to better understand the body have a profound effect on children with disabilities. All these postures and breathing exercises are just different methods of coping mechanisms, but are allowing the children to rewire their understanding of themselves so that their coping mechanism benefits them. They learn these coping strategies to deal with anxiety and other issues in a healthy way, and they further themselves on their Brahmanical path towards their personal highest self. Each student needs a different set of these “coping strategies”, learning to integrate which strategy worked for a particular feeling, doubt, or worry can be interwoven through everyday life. Knowing how to heal oneself in a healthy, stable way is the right use of energy.


            The final Yama is Aparigraha, translated as non-greed or non-hoarding. It teaches us to only take what we need, to only keep what serves us in the present moment, and let go of the rest. As we release what we don’t need we create more room for what is needed to enter our lives. We must learn to work without expectation of results and practice detachment to situations and its outcomes with love and acceptance. It teaches us to not act out of jealousy and further shift the relationships we create with our world, ideas, our identity, and each other. Aparigraha doesn’t ask us to necessarily get rid of all the material things we own, but it teaches us to have these things without being attached to them. As much as thoughts are fleeting in the mind, they come and go, so do material things that we own, even people in our lives are fluid like water. To cling to the objects, thoughts, and people that make up our lives only creates a wall between us and enlightenment.

            In our daily lives we hold on to certain thoughts that we believe to be true. This is very relevant in a yogic practice. We think because we didn’t touch our toes today we can never do it for our tomorrow’s. Or we believe that we can’t find stillness in meditation because our minds are too active. This is just our fear crystalizing our thoughts when we are actually quite elastic and changing. For children with special needs, it’s so important to let go and not “hoard” certain beliefs they’ve held about themselves due to whatever ailment they have. It is unfortunate that many children with disabilities have to live throughout their lives under the umbrella of their labelled “disability”. When someone is labelled as something, they hold this as their truth and this stops them from event taking the smallest baby steps to better their situation. By doing yoga, each day they see their bodies and minds shape shifting. This allows them to let go of the thoughts that don’t serve them, or even so let go of a physical posture that doesn’t further their growth. It allows them to move past the thoughts of “I am my disability” or “I will never be able to do something like this”. Yoga has become a very special tool these children can use to cut the chords in their belief system that keep them from moving forward along their path towards personal bliss.