Yoga for Special People with Richard Kravetz
Richard, a certified Yoga for Special People therapist and Chair Yoga instructor, developed an interest in teaching Special Needs Yoga when his second son was born with Global Developmental Delay. Working with these groups has enabled Richard to explore the potential of yoga to enrich their lives.
How did you get into teaching yoga for special people and why is it important to you?
My interest in teaching Special Needs Yoga started when my second son was born with Global Developmental Delay, an event which shaped my life and my yoga journey. I have experienced all sorts of emotions through the highs and the lows and am grateful to him for opening my eyes to a world around love, hope and trust. Teaching yoga to adults and children with special needs is a very rewarding experience, and that’s why I hope to continue working with these very special people for a long time to come.
How has your practice developed over the years and where do you teach?
Over the years, my yoga knowledge has broadened and the opportunities to teach people with special needs have increased. I have taught in mainstream and specialist schools and Day Centres for adults with learning difficulties and special needs. I have taught at Men cap, Sense (a deaf/blind charity), Norwood and different outreach centres. By working with these groups I have been able to explore the potential of yoga to enrich their lives.
You mention that you find teaching yoga to special people is a rewarding experience, how do your students engage in the experience and what are the benefits to them?
Yoga provides special people with an opportunity to detach themselves from their normal day, and find an intuitive direction which connects them with the divine in every moment. It is pleasing to watch my students embrace yoga with passion and enjoyment. As they progress, I have observed them developing care, trust, confidence and a connection with themselves and those around them. When they move their bodies to stretch and smile and laugh, they feel happy and content and I feel humbled and rewarded.
It is generally recognised that Yoga sets the foundation for learning by unifying body, mind and spirit through established practices that help balance the mind, strengthen the body and nurture the spirit. People with Learning difficulties often present symptoms where they are trapped in their bodies, disorganised in mind and their breath is shallow. The effect of medication and past trauma often results in a heightened state of stress and reactivity. They can be trapped in a state which is resistant to change, and placed in a “survival mode” of fear, fright and flight. This results in their senses becoming dulled and a tense and anxious disposition.
Yoga provides a perfect antidote to address these adverse effects by inviting change, adaptation and growth on all levels including motor, sensory, emotional, immune and psychological. It resets the nervous system, reduces stress and reactivity and helps people to move from survival mode to inner safety, calm and coping.
The physical benefits of the Asana yoga I teach include increased flexibility and mobility. It assists someone who is disconnected to become more self-aware and acquire a deeper understanding of their body and the environment. Over time, the person learns the poses that can be adapted to their unique situation. It means yoga is inclusive to people of any ability, making use of props such as chairs, blocks, bolsters etc. and treating the body with trust and compassion.
Pranayama affects areas such as circulation, cardiovascular, metabolic, endocrine, vascular and autonomic homeostatic. It is essential and it is free! Respiratory patterns reflect life, so the way a person breathes is symptomatic of their emotional state, stress levels and state of mind and body. With a conscious breathing practice that same person has the ability to change their emotional state and nervous system. People with learning difficulties are often in a state of sympathetic arousal, and so a deeper breathing practice helps them move from fear and anxiety to emotional and mental stability.
Chanting is harmonious and increases breathing capacity, oxygenation and circulation. It can have the dual effect of energising or calming as appropriate. It helps regulate the breath, improve lung function and promotes concentration and integration while clearing emotional blockages.
What was your first experience of teaching yoga to those with special needs like?
When I was first approached to teach yoga classes to children and adults with special needs I was naturally nervous and uncertain about how I would manage with the illnesses and issues that the people were presenting, but with trust, intuition and an open mind my practice has developed and everything I have learnt is from the people I have taught. I knew that having taught yoga for many years, I was confident in my delivery and I believed that people would have faith in themselves and their ability to do what they could, and benefit accordingly. What inspired me was that they did, and have continued to do so, which as a teacher makes me feel humbled and privileged.
Study with Richard:
At the 3 day training, Yoga for Special People at Yogacampus, from the 11th to 13th May 2018, I will explore how yoga can be used therapeutically and effectively for all individuals whatever their ability. The session offers practical solutions to how movements and postures can be adjusted to make them accessible to students who may be impaired on a physical, mental or sensory level. It will offer a toolkit of ideas and practices to make the wonderful world of yoga accessible for all.
Richard is a certified Yoga for Special People therapist, a Chair Yoga instructor and leader of specialised training courses at Special Yoga and The British Wheel of Yoga. Read his full biography here.