Using Yoga to Support Speech and Language Development
Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist, MCD, CCC-SLP, RYT 200
In my last post, we discussed some benefits of yoga for children, particularly for children with developmental delays or disabilities. Today, I’d like to share how yoga can support speech and language development.
- Learning Readiness: Yoga’s focus on mindfulness breathing and movement typically helps to calm and focus, and can improve a child’s readiness to learn. When readiness to learn improves, a child’s ability to attend to a task and gain new knowledge from it improves.
- Following directions to perform a yoga pose or sequence is built-in practice for receptive language (i.e., understanding what is said) and following directions. (Keep in mind, that in children’s yoga, the focus is on moving mindfully, engaging in the present moment, and having fun-so it’s completely ok if they are not able to do a pose perfectly, as long they are moving in a manner that will not cause injury.) Conversely, playing a game like “Yogi Says” (similar to “Simon Says”) or letting the child give instructions on how to perform a pose or sequence is a great way to let the child practice expressive language skills.
- Because of the kinesthetic (movement) nature of yoga-this is a great way to work on teaching vocabulary words related to spatial terms (like “under, in front, behind, next to”). Not only are these concepts used when describing how to perform a yoga pose, but they can even be used to instruct a child where to perform a pose (i.e., “Stand in front of the chair and do tree pose.”)
- Answering questions is an important language skill for a child to have, particularly by the time they start school. During yoga, they can answer different “wh” questions (who, what, where, when, why) or “yes/no” questions regarding the pose they are doing, or regarding the item a pose might represent. (Example: In downward dog, you might ask “Is your belly on the floor in this pose?”, or “What sound does a doggy make?”)
- Being able to identify sounds in a word is another important skill for a child to have, and is essential to learning to read. To target this in yoga, you may perform poses that have a specific sound in them (Example: “Let’s see how many poses with can think of that start with the letter “d”!), or discuss what sounds might be in the name of a pose (Example: “We are doing butterfly pose. What sound does “butterfly” start with?”)
- Tying in several poses to a specific theme (i.e. ocean animals, bugs, farm animals, seasonal/holiday items) is a great way to introduce new thematic vocabulary words. In addition, you can discuss similarities and differences between the objects represented by poses. (Example: If doing a unit of bugs, you might ask how a bee and a butterfly are the same and different from each other.) The following websites have lots of great ideas for thematic yoga lessons:
- If your child has articulation difficulties with a specific sound, you can perform poses with the target sound. (Example: To work on the “s” sound, you might do the following poses: snake pose, sun breath, spider pose)
- Storybook yoga-this is my favorite!!! Simply pick a favorite storybook, and use yoga poses to act it out and re-tell it. It is totally ok to make up a pose (or have the child) make up poses as needed! Again, because many children are kinesthetic learners (i.e., learn through movement), acting out a story can improve their ability to re-tell it. Or, pick out a few different yoga poses, and make up a story to go with them!
As you can see, yoga can be used in many different ways to encourage speech and language skills!! Have fun moving and talking!