|No, this isn't Prat, it's my youngest, about 4 years ago.|
At our first lesson together we got to know one another a little bit and by that I mean her parents came in with her and I asked them questions while Prathigniya wandered around the room, flapping her arms and becoming entranced with the ceiling fans and mirrors. Here is what I learned that first day:
- The only way for Prat to stand still is to put her on a raised platform of some kind. Her parents brought a low step stool.
- While Prat can walk, she has little other muscle control. Her parents physically manipulate her limbs and body into the poses.
- Prat cannot speak but for a few MMMM and BBBB sounds, however she does understand some things. She may not comply or respond but she understands.
We set up some parameters for our next class, like a time limit of 30 minutes but a willingness to stop sooner based on Prat's reactions to the situation, we moved a bench in so Prat could have a whole yoga mat to work on instead of 2 square feet of step stool, I brought in a small lamp and we kept all of the fans off to mitigate the possibility of sensory overload. All of these things seemed to make a difference. Prat was able to stay more in the moment and there was much less frustrated squawking.
During our 3rd session, as her mother held Prat's left arm forward and her father held her right hand to her foot, up behind her back - Prat grinned in Standing Bow. You should have tears in your eyes right now.
Sometime around week 5 or 6, Prat let me touch her without protest. I held her arm for her in a spine twist and then her knee. Slowly, so very slowly, I am inserting myself into more of the physical manipulation.
I won't give you a week by week but I'll tell you that we have eliminated the bench, Prat has been practicing on her mat across from me, between her parents. We have kept the lights and fans off but added a towel to her mat and it doesn't seem to have caused any negative sensory stimulation. I've learned that if we count to 10 she will hold a pose but if we don't count she gets anxious and tries to escape her parents gentle hold. And just like most of us who are either back benders or forward benders by nature - Prat prefers backbends. I've learned that I don't need a watch, because her sagging body tells me when 30 minutes are up. I've learned that if you put her hands together in Namaskar at the end of practice and say Namaste, she replies with MMMM.
My new secret dream is to one day, be able to give Prat and her parents a 30 minute practice, and actually let her parents practice without having to assist her physically. I would have never dreamed something like that was possible 4 months ago but as this little girl smiles her way through backbends and waits patiently through her dreaded, unassisted balasana for me to get up before she does (without counting!) I find that I believe in a whole lot more than I used to. I believe that these little 30 minute increments are not insignificant and are maybe even an unfathomably huge investment in the life of a sweet little girl and the parents who exhaust themselves with her care.
I believe that if Yoga can make these kinds of changes in so short a time for someone who is practicing not entirely of their own volition, then we can't possibly name the miracles that are there for the taking - for all of us.