Yoga for the Special Child® Inspiration!
Gita, Jessica & Jaylin were a feature story in the March 10 Patriot Ledger-spreading the yoga love!
Article by Jody Feinberg, The Patriot Ledger
PLYMOUTH -- Eight-year-old Jaylin Melville sat cross-legged on the yoga mat, grinning and squirming with excitement as instructor Gita Brown settled down to face her. “Sit tall, please, hands on knees, eyes on me. Ready, hari om,” Brown said.
Jaylin giggled, flapped her hands and chanted, “Hari om.”
“Stop having fun,” Brown joked, then calmly repeated the sequence until Jaylin stilled her hands, stopped looking around the Plymouth studio and focused on Brown.
Jaylin, who has Down syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder, is not the typical yoga practitioner, but yoga has significant benefits for her and other people with a variety of special needs, Brown said.
“Yoga is not just for skinny white chicks and doing poses,” said Brown, who teaches yoga privately and in the Creative Arts Therapies program at the South Shore Conservatory. “Yoga brings the breath and mind together, and that can happen for everyone. I help them find that state of awareness of their breath and body where they are calm and can begin to discover their own strength and balance.”
Jessica Melville, Jaylin’s mother, said her daughter has changed dramatically since she was a withdrawn 4-year-old who avoided eye contact. Melville, who used to bring Jaylin to Brown every Saturday, now is trained to do yoga daily with Jaylin in their Sandwich home and brings her to a session with Brown about once a month.
“At first I thought the yoga was really weird, but I trusted Gita,” Melville said. “Jaylin is so much more connected to herself and the world now.”
Brown is trained and licensed to practice a specific kind of yoga, called Yoga for the Special Child, created in the 1970s by a woman whose own daughter has Down syndrome. That approach – used for both children and adults – has helped Jaylin filter out distractions and concentrate, and it has strengthened her muscle tone, digestive system and breathing.
“It took a year of modeling before she could do the breathing practice,” said Brown, who also is a certified instructor through the Integral Yoga Academy. “She would look around, flap her hands. I kept demonstrating as if she were doing it. I don’t ever give up. I will never forget the day she did it. I almost leapt through the roof. It’s like she’d been switched on.”
During her session with Jaylin, Brown moved through five sequential steps: opening chant, eye movements, breathing practices, poses and deep relaxation. As she guided Jaylin through lateral, forward and backward bends, Brown was gently, lovingly playful, at one point kissing Jaylin’s flexed toes.
“The structure gives the brain and body something to latch onto,” she said. “These steps provide a sense of safety and preparation of the body for later poses.”
Brown’s voice and pacing had a musical quality, not surprising since she is a classically trained clarinetist, teacher and performer, with a bachelor of music degree from the Eastman School of Music and a master of music degree from the University of Michigan. She is also board-certified in music therapy.
As the session closed, Jaylin raised and lowered her arms and breathed with Brown, who softly intoned, “My turn, your turn.”
“Look at that strength ... beautiful,” Brown said, and Jaylin beamed.
Reach Jody Feinberg at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @JodyF_Ledger.