There aren't many offering kids aerial yoga at the moment, and I chalk that up to the fact that it's quite new to the studio world, and it is a unique fusion of the synergies between sensory integration/enrichment exercises, yoga, mindfulness & brain training, and acrobatics. It takes a niche training to know how to offer that combo, but it just so happens, my life path brought me extensive training in each of those areas, priming me to see what an incredibly beneficial mind/body tool aerial yoga can be, especially for kids.
However, because it is so integrative and so all encompassing, it's not so easy to explain in a few words. I've made a little video (above) to demonstrate the incredibly well balanced mind body class that packs fun-factor, sensory integration, life-skills, and mind/body exercise into a 45 minute span.
I'll sum up a class in just a few words here as best as I can:
We work on positive self talk, and optimism paired with mindfulness strategies as supported by the research in recent neuroscience.
We utilize the 3 major sensations for increasing brain organization and regulation:
1. Vestibular (balance and movement through space)
2. Proprioceptive (joint compression, joint traction, heavy work of the body) 3. Tactile (discrimination between temperature, texture, light touch & deep pressure).
We work on breathing techniques to learn how to shift from fight or flight into a relaxation response and to self-regulate big emotions.
We learn social skills, compassion & empathy skills, peaceful principles such as caring for others and our environment.
We use play to increase attention to and engagement in the work of the mind & body.
We encourage a creative space to honor and develop creativity and generating multiple solutions for life tasks.
After a decade of helping people transform the way they live and perform in their daily lives, I know firsthand how important it is to also include the mind in a physical practice, to utilize the sensory systems, to develop positive self talk, and dedicate to relaxation practice and breath work. The mind reflects the body and the body the mind. We are incredibly interconnected and we cannot tease one from the other. Aerial yoga honors that complexity, yet it allows flexibility and modification for the individual need.
I truly believe children want with all of their hearts to do their best. Given the right tools and information for how they can help themselves, they can feel empowered. I got awfully tired of writing to insurance companies about all the things that are "wrong" or "atypical" about a person. And so I began balancing out my medicalized career by teaching yoga, which holds the perspective that we all have differences, and it is precisely those differences that make the world a more balanced and productive place.
One child may dislike having her feet off the ground or stepping on raised surfaces (what we call gravitational insecurity in the therapy world), and another may swing emphatically for hours on end and leap from raised surfaces with glee (a child needing proprioceptive and/or vestibular information to better regulate the nervous system). In aerial yoga, we can lower the swing or raise it, we can meet the child where they are and help them use their natural state of strengths to find their authentic potential.
It's ok if a child hates to wear shoes. We don't wear them in yoga. We welcome a child that is always wiggling, rolling around and squirming like he's got ants in his pants. The yoga hammock is quite accepting of movement. It's fine if a kid is fearful of going upside down. We just use the mirror (to give them visual feedback) and gradual graded opportunities paired with fun and peer support to meet them where they are. It's fine if your child doesn't know how to sit still. The yoga hammock allows a child to be still, but still receive movement from the hammock's gentle sway. We work our way toward stillness as the child demonstrates need.
Whomever your child is, whatever your child's needs are, they are perfect for aerial yoga and aerial yoga is perfect for them. And if you are still reading, I have a feeling you are the perfect parent for your child because you are obviously learning, reaching out, trying your best with the understanding you have for the benefit of the light of your life. And that, my friend, is all yoga.
Lindsey Lieneck, MS, OTR, RYT, is owner of Yogapeutics in Austin, TX where she has developed the Yogapeutics Aerial Yoga & Mindfulness curriculum for kids. She teaches classes, consults with parents & schools and educates other professionals on the Yogapeutics curriculum. Read more about Lindsey HERE.
See the Yogapeutics class schedule and offerings: