Tuning Into The Rhythm of Life

By Craig Hanauer E-RYT 500 RCYT

Isn’t it remarkable that a healthy vestibular system can process lower frequency rhythmic sound vibrations and translate them into corresponding bodily movements? Alfred Tomatis the creator of the Tomatis Listening Method observed that both rhythm and sound are processed through different parts of the human ear. He described the vestibular apparatus as the ear of the body, the part involved in the feeling and production of movement and rhythm, and the cochlea or hearing apparatus deals with the perception of sounds and pitch. Music helps to join brain and body in their response to the resonance of sound so that the body itself becomes an instrument of expression.

It is no coincidence that many disciplines designed to address vestibular dysfunction have a rhythmic component to them. Take for example traditional Sensory Integration Therapy’s focus on rhythmic movements to stimulate the vestibular system in different ways; Harald Blomberg’s Rhythmic Movement Therapy designed to address nonintegrated primitive reflexes through rhythmic movements; and although not aimed specifically at vestibular dysfunction, the therapeutic branch of Eurythmy (a practice common to Rudolph Steiner’s Waldorf Schools around the world) aims to restore an individual towards balance and equilibrium.

Clearly rhythmic movements are comforting and organizing for many children, and that is why rocking a baby tends to be soothing and swinging forward and back upon a swing is a popular activity for many kids. But what about the child who avoids the swing or is upset by even a gentle rocking motion? What does this say about her vestibular system, and how can she gradually become acclimatized to such movements so that she begins to enjoy them and to develop a corresponding internal rhythm and order?

It is through being bounced, rocked, and spun that babies develop a healthy vestibular system, so children who are hypersensitive to vestibular input should not be allowed to avoid it completely, but rather should be exposed to it with consideration to time and intensity. Much like the child who has difficulty waiting; if always called upon immediately s/he will have no opportunity to increase her capacity to wait, however kept waiting too long will send her into unproductive distress.

So what does all of this have to do with Children’s Yoga? I wasn’t aware of the many ways I was already incorporating rhythmic movements into my children’s yoga classes until I attended training on Blomberg Rhythmic Movement Therapy. All of that rocking, rolling and moving to music has a rhythmic component to it, and engaging my students through rhythm makes the class run so much more smoothly; it’s is akin to moving with the river rather than against it. In addition, I have become aware of so many new ways of incorporating rhythmic movements into my classes, now that I see how these movements benefit my students, and myself in terms of the energy I expend in leading a class. We often hear the expression “being in the rhythm of life” and this is something that can begin like so many other things on the yoga mat!


You can read more about Craig and his programs by visiting his websites and Facebook page.

Yoga: A Great Activity to Enhance Speech, Language and Literacy

By Craig Hanauer E-RYT 500 CYT
Over the past 15 years of teaching yoga to children I have come to appreciate what an amazing activity yoga is for supporting speech, language and literacy development. As children many of us were told to sit still and listen, and sadly comments such as this can still be heard in schools around the world. For some children this is an either or proposition, they can either sit still or listen, and moving their bodies helps them to self-regulate and attend.

Ask any speech pathologist and they will tell you about the connection between movement and expressive language; having kids move their bodies during speech therapy sessions is akin to greasing the wheel. This is why asking children to be quiet in yoga class is a true self-regulatory challenge. I recall working with a selectively mute child who would only speak during movement-related activities, and at these times she was quite talkative. Opportunities for child-directedness in yoga class provide important practice in initiation, sequencing, coordinating movement and expressive language, and creativity.

kid's yoga with Craig Hanauer

Children are likely to be more relaxed during yoga class which makes them much more receptive to learning, and the calmness they experience afterwards will contribute to increased word retrieval and fluency. Acting out stories or moving to kid friendly songs provides the opportunity to link words or phrases to corresponding movements or actions.

Kinesthetic learners will be much more likely to follow along and retain a story when it is acted out physically, and if a child’s receptive language is challenged, observing classmates and teachers perform will provide valuable visual support.

Many young children, particularly those with developmental delays, lack core strength and postural support. Unfortunately when this is the case, the mechanisms of breathing (the ribcage and the diaphragm) become fixed and locked and engaged in holding the body upright. Yoga increases core strength and postural support, which frees up the mechanisms of breathing for their intended purpose, and ultimately supports self-regulation and expressive language. One needs to be able to take a deep inhalation followed by a long controlled exhalation both to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and to create speech, and an unencumbered diaphragm and rib cage are necessary to do this. Yoga can be extremely strengthening for the diaphragm; for example breathing in Bow Pose against the floor/gravity is like resistance training for the diaphragm. Having a strong diaphragm not only allows one to take deep inhalations, but it allows us to make forceful exhalations, an important ability in blowing our noses to clear our nasal passages. Breathing in bow pose also provides valuable proprioceptive input to the abdominal area, which helps students identify the place you want them to breathe into.

Speech and Language Pathologists have been attending my Every Kid’s Yoga Teacher Training for years, which indicates to me that the relationship between these two seemingly disparate disciplines has become increasingly appreciated and accepted.

Written by Craig Hanauer for Healthy Life Cycle

Craig Hanauer is a Kripalu trained Yoga Alliance Registered “Experienced” 500-Hour Children’s Yoga Teacher.  He is also certified in New York State as a Creative Arts Therapist, a School Teacher and a School Building Leader.  Committed to the health and wellbeing of children, Craig has developed “Every Kid’s Yoga”, a unique and successful program for children with varied abilities and needs that integrates the creative arts, yoga, and play. He specializes in training yoga teachers, educators, therapists and parents in this therapeutic and fun-filled approach to working with kids. Craig continues to work directly with young people in a variety of settings such as Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, The Preschool at 3rd Street Music Settlement, and Satellite Academy a NYC Department of Education Alternative High School. Craig recently founded The Children’s Yoga Teacher Training Collaborative, a Yoga Alliance Approved 95-hour children’s yoga teacher training school.

You can read more about Craig and his programs by visiting his websites and Facebook page.