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Yoga for Learning Disabilities

What Is a Learning Disability?

Unlike other disabilities, such as paralysis or blindness, a learning disability (LD) is a hidden handicap. A learning disability doesn't disfigure or leave visible signs that would invite others to be understanding or offer support. A woman once blurted to Wallace, "You seem so intelligent--you don't look handicapped!"

LD is a disorder that affects people's ability to either interpret what they see and hear or to link information from different parts of the brain. These limitations can show up in many ways-as specific difficulties with spoken and written language, coordination, self-control, or attention. Such difficulties extend to schoolwork and can impede learning to read or write, or to do math.

Learning disabilities can be lifelong conditions that, in some cases, affect many parts of a person's life: school or work, daily routines, family life, and sometimes even friendships and play. In some people, many overlapping learning disabilities may be apparent. Other people may have a single, isolated learning problem that has little impact on other areas of their lives.

"Learning disability" is not a diagnosis in the same sense as "chickenpox" or "mumps." Chickenpox and mumps imply a single, known cause with a predictable set of symptoms. Rather, LD is a broad term that covers a pool of possible causes, symptoms, treatments, and outcomes. Partly because learning disabilities can show up in so many forms, it is difficult to diagnose or to pinpoint the causes. And no one knows of a pill or remedy that will cure them.

Not all learning problems are necessarily learning disabilities. Many children are simply slower in developing certain skills. Because children show natural differences in their rate of development, sometimes what seems to be a learning disability may simply be a delay in maturation. To be diagnosed as a learning disability, specific criteria must be met.

Learning disabilities can be divided into three broad categories:
Developmental speech and language disorders
Academic skills disorders
"Other," a catch-all that includes certain coordination disorders and learning handicaps not covered by the other terms

The effects of learning disabilities can ripple outward from the disabled child or adult to family, friends, and peers at school or work.

Children with LD often absorb what others thoughtlessly say about them. They may define themselves in light of their disabilities, as "behind," "slow," or "different."

Children with learning disabilities and attention disorders may have trouble making friends with peers. For children with ADHD, this may be due to their impulsive, hostile, or withdrawn behavior.

Yoga provides an effective therapeutic alternative for children with learning disabilities. Yogic breathing exercises (pranayama) stimulate the central nervous system and strengthen the immune system. In combination with yoga poses (asanas) and deep relaxation, pranayama facilitates the development of body awareness, balance, memory and concentration. Students with dyslexia often receive special benefit from practicing the yogic eye exercises, which strengthen the optic nerve, relax facial muscles and stimulate various centers of the brain. These exercises improve the eyes' ability to focus and enhance word recognition skills. Eye exercises are only one example of how yoga can be adapted to minimize specific learning deficits; however, Yoga for the Special Child is primarily a holistic therapy, and as such, its main objective is to enhance all areas of a child's development. Five basic areas of practice are given (1) asanas, or body postures, (2) pranayama, or breathing exercises, (3) cleansing practices, (4) music and sound therapy, and (5) deep relaxation.



  1. Lie flat on the floor or carpet and place the hands straight over the head.

  2. Stretch the legs straight, tighten the knees and take a few deep breaths.

  3. Exhale and slowly raise the legs together and bring them over the head.

  4. Interlock the fingers, clasp the soles and stretch the legs straight up with the knees kept tight. Rest the entire back and the floor. Take three deep breaths.

  5. Exhale; lower the legs towards the floor beyond the head by widening the elbows. Try and keep the pelvis as near the floor as possible. Keep the legs tightened at the knees throughout. Rest the chin on the knees.

  6. Stay in the position from 30 to 60 seconds, breathing evenly

  7. Exhale and move the legs to the original position.

  8. Inhale, release the hands, bring the legs straight to the floor and relax.


The pose helps balance and poise. It also strengthens the back. It brings about steadiness of movements at the musculoskeletal level and helps to calm down and stabilize the mind. The legs stretch fully which makes the thighs and calves shapely.

This article has been written by Dr. R. Nagarathna, Dean, Division of Yoga & Life-sciences, SVYASA
This article is published online courtesy
and Arogyadhama

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