Differentiating between the concepts of Yoga and Mindfulness can often be confusing. Although they are interrelated, they are different from one another. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware. It’s noticing and paying attention to your thoughts, feeling, body and surroundings. It can be practiced wherever, whenever, with whoever, during whatever you’re doing, by showing up and being fully engaged in the here and now. Yoga is a total mind-body workout that combines strengthening and stretching poses with deep breathing and meditation or relaxation. Mindfulness can enrich the practice of yoga, and yoga can nurture and expand mindfulness. Mindfulness can be applied to any situation throughout the day, whereas yoga is used as a specific practice. Research has identified that practicing the combination of yoga and mindfulness has led to benefits in one’s physical development, self-awareness, sensory-awareness, and improved attention in the special need’s population.

1. Physical benefits

• Strength and flexibility: The first thing many people think of when it comes to the benefits of yoga is the physical benefits, such as flexibility and strength. There is noticeable rigidity in movement for many children nowadays, especially those with special needs. With the practice of yoga, they learn to reprogram their bodies with movement, stretching and awareness. The more they practice the more flexible they get, increasing their muscle mass. The physical benefits of yoga assist them in the playground at school and performing better in sporting activities which ultimately has a positive impact on their mental health.

• Resilience: Once a child eventually gets into the physical pose they have been practicing, their confidence and self-esteem skyrockets. It teaches them resilience and the idea that they need to keep trying in order to achieve a goal. By achieving the physical goal, they develop a sense of self-worth and encourages them to try new things with the knowledge that they will fail once, twice or a thousand times before they reach their goal. Therefore, yoga benefits children through training of resilience. Resilience is often limited in special needs individuals, without the right supports or training.

2. Self-awareness

• Bodily awareness: Yoga and Mindfulness also increases the awareness of bodily sensations. When practicing yoga, the teacher will remind the student to bring their attention back to how their body is feeling, back to the breath or back to the senses. This increases their ability to recognise how their body is feeling and their surroundings. This is the first step in identifying how they may be feeling emotionally, what their thoughts may be within that moment and even identify why they may be feeling that way.

• Emotional regulation: With the increased awareness of their bodily sensations and ability to recognise their thoughts and feelings, yoga and mindfulness can assist in improving a child’s ability to regulate their emotions. Children with special needs can find it difficult to regulate their emotions because they struggle to identify their emotions and the reasons behind them. However, if they develop the skill of identification and reasoning, they can develop the skill of regulation and self-control. Yoga and mindfulness have been found the assist in developing these skills in not only children with special needs, but also adolescents and adults with or without special needs.

3. Sensory needs

• Sensory development is important for all children, particularly those with special needs as it assists them in regulating their emotions. Yoga can assist in sensory regulation as a form of movement. Yoga can vary in yin (low energy) or yang (high energy) or even a mix of both styles and depending on your current need, you can choose what kind of practice you need. However, those with special needs can find it difficult to identify what type of energy they are experiencing, which is why it is important to have the options and observe what kind of energy they are displaying. If they are jumping, running, climbing then perhaps a release of energy by practicing a yang style could be beneficial. If they are laying around, uninterested and lazy, perhaps a yin style would benefit them. If they are displaying both or it is difficult to identify how they are feeling, perhaps a mix of yin and yang is necessary. In this way, they can accept how they are feeling right now, sit with those feelings and let them pass rather than fight against them and try to find an energy they are not currently experiencing.

4. Improved attention

• Given yoga and mindfulness focus heavily on directing our attention to either our body, thoughts or feelings, it has found to also improve an individual’s executive functioning (our attention and memory). Research has found that the practice of mindfulness meditation 10 minutes a day can significantly improve an individual’s ability to attend to a task and increase their ability to retain information in their short-term and long-term memory. Given yoga is a form of mindfulness, it is expected that practicing yoga can also provide a similar benefit also suggested by research.

Overall, the physical, emotional and sensory benefits of Yoga and Mindfulness effect not only the general population but also children with special needs. Yoga and Mindfulness can be used as a useful tool or intervention to assist with sensory needs, self-regulation and behaviours. Why not give it a go these school holidays!

Solutions in Mind are running a 'Lil Yogi's' School Holiday program. Ask in the office, phone (02) 4722 9097, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to find out more!