Embracing Whole-Body Movement for Well-being

Whole-Body Movement series( part-4) Final part

Read Autism and Whole Body Movement Whole-Body Movement part- 1

Read Embracing Whole-Body Movement in My Daily Routine Whole-body movement series part- 2

Read Embracing Whole-Body Movement: A Day of my son Yuvaan’s life Whole-Body Movement series part-3

Embracing Whole-Body Movement for Well-being: Empowering Special Needs Families.(Importance, practical strategies, benefits and resources)

Parenting a child with special needs is a journey filled with unique challenges and triumphs. It’s a rewarding yet challenging journey, and when you’re a parent or primary caregiver to a child with special needs, the challenges can be uniquely demanding. The role of primary caregivers, often mothers, is multifaceted, encompassing physical care, emotional support, and advocacy.

In this context, incorporating whole-body movement activities into daily life becomes more than just a health-oriented choice; it becomes a holistic approach to well-being for both the caregiver and the child. Integrating movement activities into daily routines not only benefits the physical health of both the caregiver and the child but also contributes significantly to their emotional well-being.

In today’s blog, I’ll explore simple and yet effective ways for special needs parents, particularly mothers and primary caregivers, to incorporate whole-body movement into their lives effectively.

Why Whole-Body Movement Matters?

Whole-body movement is essential for everyone’s well-being. It’s a comprehensive approach to physical activity that engages various muscle groups simultaneously, fostering overall physical development. It helps us develop and maintain strength, coordination, and balance. Beyond the physical advantages, embracing whole-body movement contributes to the holistic well-being, positively impacts the emotional and mental states of both parents and caregivers. It helps us improve our mood, reduce stress, and sleep better.

Importance of Whole-Body Movement for Special Needs Families

Whole-body movement can be a valuable tool for families with special needs. It can help parents and caregivers bond with their children, provide opportunities for physical activity, and create a fun and stimulating environment. Participating in whole-body movement together can also help families feel more supported and connected.

How to incorporate Whole-Body Movement into Daily Life?

Practical Strategies for integrating Movement into Daily Routines

1. Start small and gradually increase the amount of movement. Don’t try to do too much too soon. Start with short, fun activities and gradually increase the duration and intensity of the activities as your child becomes more comfortable.

2. Make movement a part of your child’s daily routine. Look for opportunities to incorporate movement into everyday activities, such as walking to school or playing in the park.

3. Find activities that your child enjoys. There are many different types of movement activities, so find ones that your child finds fun and engaging. Some ideas include dancing, swimming, yoga, and sports.

4. Be patient and consistent. It may take some time for your child to get used to new activities. Be patient and consistent, and eventually your child will start to enjoy the benefits of movement.

There are many ways to incorporate whole-body movement into your family’s routine.

1.Morning Stretches:

Begin the day with gentle stretches. Encourage your child to reach for the sky, touch their toes, and twist gently from side to side.
Benefits: Increases flexibility, promotes blood circulation, and sets a positive tone for the day.

2.Dance Breaks:

Turn everyday moments into dance parties. Play your child’s favorite music and move together. It’s an enjoyable way to engage in whole-body movement.
Benefits: Enhances gross motor skills, provides cardiovascular exercise, and fosters a sense of joy.

3.Obstacle Course or playing games at home or at the park:

Create a mini obstacle course using household items like cushions, chairs, or soft toys. Guide your child through the course, incorporating crawling, jumping, and balancing.
Benefits: Develops motor planning, coordination, and spatial awareness.

4.Yoga and Mindful Breathing:

Introduce simple yoga poses suitable for your child’s abilities. Combine it with mindful breathing exercises to promote relaxation.
Benefits: Enhances flexibility, improves focus, and reduces stress for both the caregiver and the child.

5.Nature Walks or hikes:

Explore the outdoors together. Walking on different surfaces like grass, sand, or pavement engages various muscles and provides sensory input.
Benefits: Supports balance, stimulates sensory experiences, and encourages a connection with nature.

6.Take swimming lessons together.
7.Try adaptive sports. Etc.

What are the Long-Term Benefits of whole-body movement for Parents and Caregivers?

There are many benefits to whole-body movement. Here are a few of the most common:

1.Improved Mood and Stress Reduction:

Whole-body movement can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in both children and adults. Regular whole-body movement releases endorphins, reducing stress and promoting a positive mindset for parents and caregivers.

2.Improved Physical Health:

Whole-body movement can develop motor skills, improve coordination, and increase strength and flexibility. Engaging in these activities helps maintain and improve physical health, ensuring caregivers have the stamina and strength needed for their caregiving responsibilities.

3.Strengthened family bonds:

Whole-body movement activities create valuable opportunities for bonding between the caregiver and the child, fostering a supportive and loving relationship. It can provide opportunities for parents and caregivers to create positive memories together.

4.Establishing Healthy Habits:

Caregivers, as role models, play a pivotal role in shaping their child’s habits. By embracing whole-body movement, caregivers instill the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle, laying the foundation for lifelong well-being. Modeling a healthy lifestyle through movement sets the foundation for long-term habits in children, promoting a lifelong commitment to well-being.

We, often consumed by our daily demands can get benefits from maintaining and enhancing our physical health. Regular movement ensures the stamina and strength required for caregiving responsibilities.
Remember, in the world of special needs parenting, it’s the amalgamation of love, support, and movement that paves the way for a brighter and more fulfilled future.

Incorporating whole-body movement into the daily routine of special needs families is a powerful tool for nurturing physical and mental health. By embracing these activities, parents and primary caregivers not only contribute to the development of their special needs child but also cultivate a healthier and more connected family environment. So, it’s not about perfection; it’s about the joy and well-being that movement can bring to the lives of both caregivers and their special needs children.

Additional helpful Resources

There are many resources available to help families with special needs incorporate movement based activities into their routines. Here are a few resources:

The National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) has a website with resources on adapted physical education and physical activity for children with disabilities visit

All India Council of Physical Therapy (AICPT) is a voice for physical therapy persons with laws & rights under Constitution of India.,of%20Commerce%2C%20Govt.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE Fitness) has many programs and resources online on exercise and fitness for people with disabilities.

The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation has a website with resources on recreation and physical activity for people with disabilities, visit

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) has a website with information on physical activity and healthy development for children with special needs.

National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD), erstwhile known as Central Institute of Research and Training in Public Cooperation. NIPCCD aims to deliver quality capacity building, counselling services and research output in the areas of women’s development, children’s holistic development, mental health and child protection. Visit

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of children, with information on physical activity and children’s health.

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) has a website with information on physical activity and special education for children.

The Family and Child Agency (FCA) has a website with information on physical activity and children with special needs.

I hope this blog post has been helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Author Shilpi Mayank Awasthi
Founder Shilpi Mayank Awasthi

BloggerSaathi Learning with your Child at Home

Learning with your Child at Home

In the second lesson, I introduced the theme of Learning with your Child at Home. I will organize future lessons around this theme. While some parents decide to homeschool their neurodivergent child, others send their child to school.

Regardless, learning with parents at home is important for the development of any child. Parenting a child with developmental delays and learning challenges requires a mindful approach to parents and children learning together at home.

I will start presenting specific concepts, tips, tools, and techniques on various topics from our next session. The next lesson will be presented as a special event hosted by SpecialSaathi on Ananth’s birthday as part of their events for International Day of People with Disabilities.

Given Ananth’s experiences, I have become a strong advocate of sustained, consistent whole body movement practice for neurodivergent learners. Whole body movement facilitates whole body communication! I am excited that my SpecialSaathi lessons started at such a time that I could do a couple of introductory lessons before digging deeper into the first topic that I want to address!

Stay tuned for our lessons on whole body movement and communication and other topics.

We are also writing our first LIFESMART ebook on learning whole body movement through Indian natya. We plan to release this e-book on December 2, 2023.

Dr. Dasaratha Rama is a professor and home educator. She was the editor of a monograph on service-learning published by the American Association of Higher Education. This monograph was a part of a series of monographs on service-learning published by AAHE. She was also an Engaged Scholar with the Campus Compact, an association in the US dedicated to higher education civic and community engagement at colleges and universities. She has served as the Chair of the Teaching and Curriculum Section of the American Accounting Education. She is a certified leader in systems thinking, mapping, and leadership under a program offered by Cabrera Research Lab. She is currently doing a certificate in Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) from RASA (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya).

"A Journey to Bharat through Natya"

Why Should Neurodivergent Learners Explore Classical Dance?

Whole Body Movement and Communication through Indian Natya – 2

Last week, I started writing about whole body movement and communication through Indian natya. While we hear of many neurodivergent learners who sing, play musical instruments, draw, paint, etc., we do not hear much about their dancing. Further, we do not hear much about neurodivergent people and classical dance. One of the questions I am going to be exploring in this series of blog post is:

Why should neurodivergent learners explore classical dance?

Many neurodivergent individuals have significant motor challenges. I did too. When someone has motor challenges, we do not think of teaching them dance. Dr Masgutova, developer of the Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI), suggested that I learn dance. I started learning dance in September 2011.

I started my dance journey with hip hop and tap. When we were in Tirupati, I saw a Bharatanatyam performance for the first time and wanted to learn it. Once I started Bharatanatyam, I discovered that I enjoyed Bharatanatyam better than hip hop and tap. Bharatanatyam was taught in a very structured and systematic way which made it easier for me to learn.

Three components of Bharatanatyam lessons that make it easier for me learn the dance form are:
1. Adavus
2. Hastas
3. Bedas

Adavus: Adavus are structured patterns of movement that are the foundation of Bharatanatyam learning. When we start learning Bharatanatyam, we focus on the adavus. Adavus are movement patterns that are done to rhythm. We do the adavus to three speeds. We continue to practice adavus even when we become more experienced students.

Practicing these adavus makes it easy to learn different pieces because the choreography builds on these adavus.

View this playlist to see some lessons on adavus by my teacher Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh, senior faculty for learning (Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning).

Hastas are hand gestures. Hastas are a unique feature of Bharatanatyam training and performance. We use hand gestures and facial expressions for communicating emotions. In my diploma program, I am learning 52 hand gestures (28 single hand and 24 double hand gestures). Each hand gesture can be used in many ways. I am learning these 52 hastas and their usage.

In TAHD (Theater Arts for Holistic Development), storytelling is one of the tools that is combined in my dance class. We are taught stories for each hasta. This is a unique feature of my TAHD dance class. I did not do such stories when I was learning Bharatanatyam before my arangetram.

See The White Peacock Story and Robbers in Ramana Thatha’s ashram in my storytelling playlist

Watch the White Peacock story with the hasta here.


In addition to adavus and hastas, we also learn bedas. Bedas focus on movements of specific body parts. For example, three bedas that I have learned are:
1) Pada Bedas (movements of the feet)
2) Shiro Bedas (movements of the head)
3) Dhrishti Bedas (movements of the eyes)

These bedas are a systematic way to practice movements of specific body parts and to develop body awareness. For example, Pada Bedas make me more aware of foot positions and movements.
See a playlist of bedas videos here:

Classical dance has been a wonderful learning opportunity for me. I am grateful to my gurus Smt. Harija Sivakumar, Professor Kalakshetra Mohanan, and Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh for teaching me Bharatanatyam for many years. The structured and systematic way of learning and practice works well for me. Adavus, hastas, and bedas are three building blocks of Bharatanatyam. By practicing these building blocks regularly, I can learn the dance pieces more easily. I encourage neurodivergent students and their parents to explore classical dance.

Writing Techniques

In my blog posts, I will also mention the writing techniques that I used. Writing is a very important skill and I hope parents will explore these techniques with their children.
I used the five paragraph essay to write this blog post. I practiced this technique daily when I was learning grammar and writing using Shurley grammar.

Shurley Grammar Website

Celebrating my Birthday: The TAHD Way

On my last birthday in 2022, I narrated the story of The White Peacock on SpecialSaathi. That experience led to the development of my story of the month project and the Ananth’s Adventures Youtube channel.

I will be doing a session for SpecialSaathi on my birthday on December 2, 2023, 8 pm IST. Hope you will join the session on whole body movement and communication with Indian natya!

About Ananth
Ananth Raghunandan is a student ambassador for (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya) RASA and Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD). Ananth Raghunandan is doing a diploma in Bharatanatyam.


Embracing Whole-Body Movement: A Day of my son Yuvaan’s life.

Whole-body movement series (part-3)

Read Autism and Whole Body Movement (Whole-Body Movement, Whole-body movement series series (part-1)
Read Embracing Whole-Body Movement in My Daily Routine, Whole-body movement series (part-2)

Embracing Whole-Body Movement in My Son’s Daily Routine: A Day of my son Yuvaan’s life.

In the fast-paced world we live in, it’s easy to overlook the importance of physical and mental well-being. This holds especially true for my 6-year-old son, Yuvaan, who navigates life on the autism spectrum and faces the challenges of Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). In this blog post, I delve into Yuvaan’s daily routine, emphasizing the integration of whole-body movement and its profound impact on his life.

Understanding Yuvaan’s Profile:

Yuvaan, a gifted child with high intellect, faces the constant demand of academic pursuits due to his insatiable curiosity. His sensory needs, intricately tied to his cognitive development, require innovative approaches to keep him engaged. Introducing whole-body movement activities became a cornerstone in fulfilling these needs.

For Yuvaan, who is on the spectrum and also a child with a Pathological Demand Avoidance profile, possesses a keen curiosity, enthusiastically explores and learns from his environment. He is a bundle of hyperenergy, a gifted child with high intellect, IQ, and cognitive functioning. Constantly seeking ways to learn new things, he is inclined towards academic pursuits, books, and related interests, exhibiting a strong sensory need to engage his highly developed mind.

Given his PDA profile, where every task is perceived as a demand to be avoided, introducing whole-body movement becomes crucial. Despite his natural tendency to resist demands, especially the ones instructed by others, it is essential to fulfill his sensory needs. I address this by incorporating occupational therapy activities, outdoor play, and exercises tailored to his interests, such as counting, skip counting, tables, mathematical operations, squares, and cubes that he enjoys the most.

Outdoor Learning and Play:

The journey began three to four years ago, with basic counting activities during outdoor play. I began integrating outdoor activities with basic counting (Yuvaan doing counting while performing these outdoor activities), gradually evolving into more complex mathematical operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, tables, squares, and cubes etc. Utilizing and incorporating numbers found in our surroundings, such as house numbers, parking numbers, and lamp posts and using them for instant calculations, sums, and number of engaging oral maths activities has turned a routine exercise into learning engaging challenges for Yuvaan. While these activities may not always be necessary now, they prove handy when setting clear boundaries in a hurry.

Slides with stairs, monkey bars, and engaging twists and turns serve as excellent means to offer comprehensive whole-body movement activities for children

Incorporating whole-body movement exercises and activities has been transformative, positively impacting and proving to be a boon for my child’s development. These activities not only catered to his sensory needs but also enriched his academic interests.

Daily Routine:

Yuvaan’s day commences at approximately 7 AM, initiating with a well-structured morning routine. This includes essential activities such as using the toilet, brushing, freshening up, dressing, a brief playtime, breakfast, morning rituals, donning shoes, socks, and his ID card before heading to school.

In grade 1, Yuvaan encounters a diverse curriculum consisting of six core subjects. Additionally, he participates in various other subjects and co-curricular activities like Zumba, instrumental music, dance, physical education, swimming, occupational therapy (OT), special education, among others. The school timetable is packed with daily and weekly activities, competitions, Olympiads, exams, and events, ensuring a mentally and physically engaging experience.

Conveniently located near our home, Yuvaan walks back from school with me. Upon returning, a swift routine follows, encompassing his bath, afternoon rituals, and lunch before we engage in quality time together. The afternoon grants him the freedom of unstructured play, and later, study sessions and homework provide intellectual stimulation. Subsequently, he delights in the playground’s slides and swings during autumn and winter, transitioning to swimming in the summer months.

Spiral slides serve as an effective source for engaging gross motor skills, balancing activities and promoting shoulder and leg movement activities.

Yuvaan’s daily routine extends to a visit to the local public park, where he utilizes exercising machines for whole-body workouts in a refreshing outdoor setting. This serves as an opportunity for him to bond, both with me and with new friends, including local kids from nearby villages and some pets.

The exercise machines found in public parks across cities nowadays offer a well-rounded blend of outdoor-based whole-body movement activities

The evening outdoor sessions conclude with a brisk 2+ km walk cum run. Back at home, Yuvaan continues to enjoy his playtime.

Impact on Yuvaan’s Life:

The integration of movement-based activities into Yuvaan’s routine yielded remarkable results:
A. Improved Sensory Processing: Reduction in sensory sensitivities enhanced Yuvaan’s daily comfort.
B. Enhanced Motor Skills: Fine and gross motor skills witnessed significant improvement, positively affecting focus, coordination, and physical confidence.
C. Increased Communication: Outdoor play facilitated communication, turn-taking, and social development, contributing to enhanced language skills.
D. Stress Reduction: Mindful physical activities became tools for managing stress and anxiety, making daily routines more manageable.

Therapeutic and Ripple Effect:

Recognizing the sensory and motor challenges faced by individuals on the autism spectrum, I introduced whole-body movement as an integral part of Yuvaan’s therapy. This deliberate approach aimed to enhance sensory processing, fine and gross motor skills, and overall communication.
The transformative power of whole-body movement extended beyond Yuvaan’s personal development. Regular outdoor activities not only enriched his well-being but also created positive ripples in our daily lives.

This blog sheds light on the seamless integration of whole-body movement into our daily routine and its far-reaching benefits. By prioritizing physical activity, even in our busy schedules, we not only enhance our health but also become inspirations for others to follow suit.

Author: Shilpi Mayank Awasthi
Founder: SpecialSaathi

Closing Note:

Your thoughts and feedback on this journey of embracing whole-body movement are highly valued. Share your insights and let’s continue this conversation on the transformative power of movement in the lives of individuals with unique needs.

"A Journey to Bharat through Natya" BloggerSaathi

Whole Body Movement and Communication through Indian Natya – 1

“A Journey to Bharat through Natya” by Ananth Raghunandan

Recently, I started my diploma in Bharatanatyam. I have been learning Bharatanatyam for over ten years and completed my arangetram (the first solo performance by a Bharatanatyam student after years of training) in 2020. I enjoy Bharatanatyam and want to continue learning and performing in the future.

Now, I am learning Bharatanatyam using a Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) approach. TAHD has five tools: 1) movement and dance, 2) music and rhythm, 3) storytelling, 4) drama, and 5) arts and crafts. TAHD gives more opportunities for movement. For example, I have also experienced movement through drama.

Movement includes any kind of movement or dance. It includes structured and
Unstructured movement. Walk, cooking, chores, dance, yoga, play, swimming, karate, sports etc.

The following are some benefits of dance for me:

– Relieves stress: I start my day with a daily walk. I do dance and theater activities throughout the day
– Creates enjoyment: Dance is enjoyable and I look forward to my dance lessons and practice.
– Builds strength: For example, when I practice a varnam for 20 – 30 minutes, I develop stamina.
– Improves sleep: Now that I have started dancing more because I started my diploma in Bharatanatyam, I am also sleeping better.
– Improves attention: My attention also improves when I do dance and theater throughout the day

Whole Body Movement and Communication through Indian Natya

According to TAHD, the purpose of movement is to

a) Understand one’s body at rest and in motion (body awareness)
In a classical dance form like Bharatanatyam, we develop body awareness in a systematic and structured way. The playlist below shows some examples of movements of different parts of the body such as feet (Pada Bedas), eyes (Drishti Bedas) etc.

b) Expression of feelings
In Bharatanatyam, we use movements to communicate feelings. For example, I have used movement of facial muscles to express joy, anger, disgust, fear etc. In addition to facial expressions, body posture and movements also communicate feelings. Here is a playlist of my recent performances

c) Enhance Non- verbal communication
We use body movements, hand gestures and facial expressions in dance. This helps me practice nonverbal communication

d) To communicate and express oneself in various spaces
As compared to individual dance, it is more challenging to move in space in drama because we have to coordinate our movements and body positions with other characters. See a playlist of my theater performances below

e) Stillness
Stillness / pause is also a part of movement as it creates the right impact. Stillness also helps convey an experience sometimes.

I want to encourage neurodivergent learners to explore dance and Indian theater. There are many forms of dance in India but a structured classical form like Bharatanatyam works better for me.

Celebrating my Birthday: The TAHD Way

On my last birthday in 2022, I narrated the story of The White Peacock on SpecialSaathi. That experience led to the development of my story of the month project and the Ananth’s Adventures Youtube channel.

I will be doing a session for SpecialSaathi on my birthday on December 2, 2023. Hope you will join the session on whole body movement and communication with Indian natya!

About Ananth
Ananth Raghunandan is a student ambassador for (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya) RASA and Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD). Ananth Raghunandan is doing a diploma in Bharatanatyam.