Monday, October 12, 2009

Body Awareness

You often hear your yoga instructor telling you to focus on a particular body part while practicing certain poses - "make sure your knee is aligned with your ankle", "turn your hips to face forward", "make sure all edges of your back foot is pushing into the ground". It's true we don't often think about what our body parts are doing through out the day unless we are physically putting them into action. We rely on our sensory receptors to get us through the day with out falling over or bumping into walls.
Some children, however, can show delayed proprioceptive development which can make life for that child very frustrating. These children often show signs of clumsiness, have trouble manuvering tiny objects, may use too much or too little force - such as opening and closing things or even hugging, and may tend to chew on or put things in their mouths. Often times this is a natural delay and just takes time to mature as the child does.
Yoga is a wonderful way to aid in that process. First and foremost, a regular yoga practice will help strenghten muscles to aid in their growth, improving proprioception. Games and activities are also used in children's yoga to further this development - and since children love to play, you can't go wrong with games!
The Hula Hoop Pass is a game I played with the class to help the children with their body awareness. Joining hands and coming into a circle, with a hula hoop around one child's arm, the children were directed to pass the hula hoop without breaking the circle or using their hands. The kids can use their arms, legs, head, neck, anything they can to get the hula hoop to the next person. The kids have a lot of fun with this one while becoming aware of cause and effect - how can I move my body to pass this hoop on to the next person? Even the hoop alone resting on different body parts helps stimulate the sensory receptors. Put this activity to upbeat music and challenge the kids to see how fast they can go makes it that much more entertaining!

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