Yoga for Developmentally Disabled Young Adults

written by Danna Lee


Yoga student at The Joshua Tree Community doing cat/cow stretch pose with Danna.

Yoga student at The Joshua Tree Community doing cat/cow stretch pose with Danna.

I was informed via email by Lori Gaspar, owner of Prairie Yoga of an opportunity to teach a yoga class to young adults with special needs. I immediately responded to the email knowing that 1. I needed to fill my requirements for my 200 hour teacher training and 2. I was excited to teach to a group of students that I feel would greatly benefit from a yoga practice.


I corresponded with Sachiko Eubanks, coordinator for the yoga program at The Joshua Tree Community. I scheduled a time for me to come meet the students and also observe a class taught by another Prairie student. I was glad to have this opportunity due to the fact I had no idea who the students were and what their abilities are. I felt better prepared for what was required from me and it gave me some ideas of a good sequence to teach. 


"I felt better prepared for what was required from me and it gave me some ideas of a good sequence to teach." 


namaste krissy

Knowing that one of the students in particular has Cerebral Palsy, I knew he would be somewhat limited to what could be taught. I decided to teach about 70% of the class in a chair. I started with simple breathing exercises and taught the students about the Ujayi Breath. Leading into some cat/cow stretches in the chair and then some dynamic arm movements. I had the students forward bend in their chairs and then led them into some twisting exercises. I had the students use the blocks and had them squeeze them over their heads to help build strength. As we moved onto the floor I repeated the cat/cow stretch and into child’s pose. Moving back into all fours, I had the students practice some balancing moves by lifting opposite arm and opposite leg. Moving onto our bellies, we practiced low cobra pose and some gentle spinal twists. Moving onto our backs, we utilized the straps into Supta Padangusthasana (reclining hand-to-big toe pose). After a few movements back and forth with our knees bent, the practitioners then went into a final realization, Savasana.


I feel that the class went well and I planned accordingly. I gave myself plenty of time between the poses on the chair to the floor so that the students never felt rushed or overwhelmed. I enjoyed myself and the students in the class. They are all very willing to participate and they work very hard. I plan on utilizing the wall next class to give the students some variety. I am also thinking of exploring some other methods to adapt to the student with cerebral palsy. I am excited to teach the students again in a few weeks. 




adaptive yoga

~~~~~ About The Joshua Tree Community.  The Joshua Tree Community is a 501{c}3, non-profit organization started in 2014.  They provide a day program for mildly developmentally disabled adults over the age of 22. Once such young people graduate from school system, it is important to continue their learning and to participate in enrichment program on daily basis in a safe and compassionate environment. The Joshua Tree Community is located in beautiful downtown area of Geneva Illinois. One of the core values The Joshua Tree Community holds is to support participants' physical and mental well-being, and to encourage them to join wellness programs. To find out more about The Joshua Tree Community,  please visit  


~~~~~ Danna Lee is enrolled in Prairie Yoga Teacher Training program in Lisle. She is one of the first volunteer instructors at The Joshua Tree Community. Danna was drawn to yoga from her own experiences of anxiety and depression. She is passionate about helping others with therapeutic yoga. 



*Pictures of real students are added with permission.