He calls it "yogurt," and he can't focus on any pose longer than a few seconds, but 3-year-old Cyrus Flatt reports after his yoga class that he already likes it.
Cyrus was one of a handful of children with special needs who came to Trident Health's campus Tuesday morning to learn the basics of yoga. A Trident Health occupational therapist guided them through the moves, from mountain pose to downward dog, to runners pose and back to mountain pose, just like a traditional yoga class.
There was considerably more fidgeting in this one, though. Asking the kids to do turtle pose earned therapist Anne Schneider some giggles.
Parents of children with special needs know it is often difficult for them to focus, deal with change and to calm themselves when they're met with challenges.
Occupational therapists at Trident Health hope that the yoga can gradually improve their confidence, balance and strength and give them a tool to right themselves when they're struggling.
Research about yoga's benefits for special needs children is scarce but growing. One review published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry found yoga can improve how children do in school, alleviate attention problems and relieve stress, and that it does have benefits for children with special needs.
Parents also said it can be difficult to find activities geared toward kids with special needs. Amanda Dilley, Cyrus' mom, said she looks for things he can do with other kids but also take home with him. She said she's looked for classes and events where Cyrus can interact with other kids like him. There isn't much.
With apraxia, a motor speech disorder, Cyrus has trouble voicing his thoughts.
"He loves playing with other kids. He just can't communicate with them very well, Dilley said.
Schneider said each of the students in the class have sensory processing issues. Most parents of children with special needs want them to have normal experiences and relationships, she said. Those opportunities can be hard to come by.
"It's here and there in the community, but it's not regular," Schneider said.
The classes are geared toward children with autism, cerebral palsy and ADD or ADHD. But the problems the pupils are facing vary widely.
At 7, Abigail Lee has already been through three open heart surgeries and leukemia, among other ailments. She also has Down syndrome.
Abigail was one of the therapists' most focused students. Loud noises are stressful for Abigail. Yoga offers the opposite.
"This will really help just ground her and to calm her down," Abigail's mother, Stephanie, said.
Emily Szymkowicz, a pediatric physical therapist, said the Trident Health team hopes to give the children a couple of poses they can use whenever they're stressed. These first classes were about testing the waters, she said. They hope to build upon it.
If there is enough interest in the classes, the therapists said they would try to offer them every summer.