Integrated Yoga aims to show a set of yoga postures for children, helping to not just help with their strength and flexibility, but also to improve their sensory integration. Various childhood disorders have been linked to problems with sensory integration, especially those on the autistic spectrum. Sensory Integration theory (SI), explains author Nicole Cuomo, aims to show how the senses work together and how when they are out of balance, they can affect the experience and behavior of children. However, the book is mainly about yoga, and the text does not go into much detail about SI. Cuomo uses her experience as a pediatric occupational therapist to explain how she uses yoga practices to help children, and her advice is very practical rather than theoretical.
Most of the book is devoted to demonstrating the basic postures. They start off with breathing exercises, then move to standing stretches, balance poses, lunges, sitting positions, twists, planks, and relaxing. Each posture is illustrated with a black and white photograph of Cuomo's niece Erica Buehler in the appropriate position. There is a short explanation of what is involved in the posture, together with comments on how to work with different aged children on doing the posture. For example, with the "fold in half" posture, for 3-5 year olds, Cuomo suggests singing "this is the way we bend in half, bend in half, ..."; for 5-8 year olds, she says the children should move in and out of the posture and discuss things that bend and that don't bend; and for 8-11 year olds, she says that the children should move in and out of the posture, and they stay in it so they can experience more stretching. She notes that kids with vestibular sensitivity may not bend forward so much, and they can try a modified pose by bending over a table, or reaching out to a wall in front of them. Finally, she points out that the forward bend helps to stretch and strengthen the spine. Each posture has a similar set of advice, sometimes going into more detail about how to get children to benefit from the work and what modifications or special problems the instructor will want to be aware of. The book ends with a couple of illustrated sequences: one a sun salute and the other a moon salute.
Cuomo writes in simple clear language and keeps the information basic and useful. The photographs of Erica are helpful and also endearing. The book would probably be useful not only to clinicians who work with children with sensory integration problems, but also to anyone who wants to instruct children doing physical exercises and yoga.
© 2007 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.