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Yoga For Special Needs Kids Not A Far Stretch, Instructor Says

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An ancient form of exercise for the body and soul is being used to help improve the lives of children with special needs. NY1's Natasha Ghoneim filed the following report.

For five-year-old Hiro Saburi, sitting serenely for even a few minutes is no easy task. The Queens boy has autism.

"He was really like up and over there and there. So hyper he wanted to calm down but he didn't know how to do that," said Hiro's mother, Mika Saburi.

With each conscious breath and held stretch, Hiro is learning how the body and mind are linked. For the last two years he's been practicing a discipline dating back to antiquity, but with a modern tweak, catering to children with special needs like his. It's called "Yoga for the Special Child."

"They can concentrate better. They can learn quicker. They become more peaceful," Yoga for the Special Child" Founder Sonia Sumar.

Sumar founded the discipline in the 1970's after giving birth to a daughter with Down Syndrome. Although she died at 15, Sumar says teaching her daughter the basics of yoga enhanced the quality of what little life she lived. Sumar trains occupational and physical therapists and teachers at Integral Yoga Institute in the West Village. She's made it her life's work traveling the world, helping special needs children.

"By working with all the other kids around the world, I filled up all the emptiness that came with her passage and I feel her with me all the time, inspiring me," Sumar said.

It's not always easy. On this particular afternoon, Hiro didn't make it through his 30 minute session. But even in the short time he practiced yoga, it seemed to have a calming effect.

"The way it is to be more balanced between mind and the body which is beneficial," Saburi said.

"This is a work that is soul to soul. When you establish that kind of connection with someone, there are no limitations," Sumar said.

Hiro's mother hopes yoga will make his transition to kindergarten in the fall smoother and life beyond much easier.

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