Are you wondering how to successfully integrate yoga and mindfulness into your occupational therapy sessions (or any pediatric therapy session, for that matter), without having to completely transform your whole curriculum?
Well, you’re not alone. We hear this question a lot from our Kids Yoga Stories community, so we sat down with Kym Sproule, a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA), to find out how she integrates yoga into her OT sessions.
It was ten years ago that I first met Kym in Portland. As we sat on a wooden picnic bench next to the water (with my eighteen-month-old in tow), we talked about our ambitions in teaching kids yoga. She was starting up her kids yoga classes, and I had just published my first two yoga books.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when Kym reached out again to say that she is now working as an occupational therapy assistant and having great success utilizing various yoga practices with her students. (Find our interview link below.)
GET YOUR 3 POSTERS HERE
WHY INTEGRATE YOGA INTO YOUR OT SESSIONS?
Kym talked about the challenges that her young clients are facing right now in these difficult times. She notices children who are struggling with:
- Self-regulation skills
- Social-emotional skills
- A perfectionist outlook
- Mood regulation
- Depression and anxiety
- Severe outbursts
Kym uses breathing and mindfulness in her sessions to help children practice coming to the present moment without judgment. She educates them on how to identify their big emotions and empowers them to use the power of their breath to regulate their feelings.
HOW DO WE EASILY INTEGRATE YOGA INTO OUR OT SESSIONS?
In our interview, Kym shares in detail exactly what a typical one-to-one or small group OT session looks like, including various yoga and mindfulness activities:
Each of Kym’s OT sessions starts with a check-in to see how the child is feeling, so that they feel seen and heard. This allows them to develop their self-awareness and helps them to read their own body sensations.
Next, the child picks out a breathing card from the card deck, and they practice a breathing exercise together to get grounded into this moment.
Next, Kym introduces movement activities to get their wiggles out. She uses the Kids Yoga Stories yoga posters for warmup exercises, which are based on her theme of the week. Most of the yoga posters include “I am…” statements, which the children love saying while acting out the pose.
The main part of the session focuses on the occupational therapy activities, including the swing, obstacles, sensory exploration, or crafts. During this time, a popular game is to hide yoga pose cards around the room and then practice the poses in a flow after finding all the hidden cards.
The OT session closes with a time for reflection and a final check-in. Kym asks the child for one “rose” (something they feel good about), “bud” (something they are looking forward to), and “thorn” (something they are nervous about or don’t feel great about).
When asked about what she would say to pediatric therapists or health professionals who are thinking to introduce yoga and mindfulness into their sessions, Kym says to jump in, be confident, and have fun.
She encourages therapists to be prepared and flexible, but also to allow some grace for plans to change in the moment. She says to just go for it—the results are worth effort!
WHAT RESOURCES ARE GREAT FOR PEDIATRIC THERAPY SESSIONS?
Kym goes on to share some of her favorite yoga and mindfulness resources—visuals she can add to her sessions without much extra planning or effort:
“TIPS FOR TEACHING YOGA IN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY” INTERVIEW
Click below to watch the thirty-minute chat Kym and I had about yoga and OT. Feel free to reach out to us or Kym directly with any questions. We are happy to help!
Watch the “Tips for Teaching Yoga in Occupational Therapy” interview here.