Some occupational therapists have recommended that patients use yoga as part of their rehabilitation process. Yoga cultivates both strength and awareness, which are both key abilities to develop after a health crisis such as a stroke. Yoga can especially be helpful for children recovering from a health disaster.
Retraining the Neurological System
The cat or crow position can be useful for patients who struggle to use one side of their body. These positions require the patient to bear his or her weight in a way that retrains the neurological system to communicate with the limb affected by a stroke. The activity requires that the patient use both arms together, another skill patients undergoing occupational therapy often struggle with.
Helping Children Perform Occupational Therapy Exercises
Yoga is especially helpful for children who are engaged in occupational therapy because it promotes relaxation and can help the child feel centered. If you have a child undergoing occupational therapy and are having a difficult time getting him or her to do his or her exercises, perform a few yoga stretches. Yoga can help children develop balance, coordination and how to focus their breathing.
Improving Sensory Processing
Children often need help with sensory processing before they can correctly perform occupational therapy exercises. Sensory processing is the ability of the brain to make sense of particular senses. For example, if an occupational therapy exercise requires that a child have his or her feet placed together, having good sensory processing abilities will help a child perform this correctly.
While most people are familiar with the five basic senses, a sixth sense that often must be retrained is the vestibular system. This is the brain's detection of the position of the head in relation to gravity. This is determined through senses located in the ear. Yoga positions such as the downward dog and the plank can help retrain the vestibular system.
Promoting Relaxation and Self-Regulation
After performing a yoga session, many children are then ready to begin the actual therapy session. Yoga is best finished with guided relaxation in which you encourage your child to relax each part of the body individually and as you also encourage your child to breath in deeply and out slowly. Deep breathing increases the flow of oxygen to various parts of the body. In contrast, shallow breathing causes the chest to constrict and decreases oxygen flow.
Not only will yoga help children recover more quickly, but it can help them in other aspects of their lives as well. For instance, children who have a difficult time sitting still in class can benefit from the self-regulation taught through yoga. These skills can be carried with the child into adulthood. But before you implement yoga into a child's regimen, consult with the occupational therapist (such as one from Bayonet Point Health & Rehabilitation Center).