The vestibular sense detects balance, changes in head position, and movement (all of which occur in aerial yoga). Vestibular receptors are in the inner ear and are activated by fluid in the ear canals as you move your head. Your child registers vestibular input through receptors in the ear and processes it in many parts of the brain
The vestibular system is connected to the development of muscle tone, balance, and alertness as it sends sensory input about balance and movement to the central nervous system for processing. Additionally, it assists in producing muscle tone so we can move smoothly and efficiently.
The vestibular system has a powerful effect on the body. Vestibular information can stay in the nervous system for hours—that’s why you feel like you’re still rocking on a boat even when you get back on land. Because of this powerful effect, have children perform vestibular activities only a few times and closely monitor their reaction.
Different Types of Vestibular Movement
Vestibular input can affect your body in difference ways depending on the movement. One kind of movement is linear – back and forth, side-to-side, and up and down. This rhythmic movement is calming and organizing to the body. Many children will rock themselves as a way of relaxing when upset. Calming vestibular movements are rhythmic and slow. Children who struggle with modulating vestibular input may have difficulty with behavior, attention, and emotions.
Another type of movement is rotary. Rotary is spinning and it is alerting to the nervous system. Other alerting movements include unexpected, rapid, or jerky movements. Most children enjoy spinning or twirling to the point of becoming dizzy. When engaging in the activities that involve spinning, be sure your child is in a safe space to do so, and spins in both directions to balance the brain and the body. Only spin a few times slowly. Monitor your child’s reaction for any signs of overload.
Mindful Child Approach to Vestibular Input
At Mindful Child, we use two-point hammocks in our classes. The two-point attachments provide linear movement. This slow, rhythmic movement coupled with deep pressure from our hammocks to calming to children.
In our initial assessment for children’s therapy we assess post rotary nystagmus to determine if the child processes vestibular input correctly. Next, we slowly introduce children to rotary movement using the astronaut training protocol and a one-point hammock with a rotor for a fluid spinning movement. Children with a vestibular problems may have trouble processing information about balance, movement and gravity. In therapy, we gradually introduce rotary movements and monitor them closely for sensory overload.
How Aerial Yoga enhances the Vestibular Sense
Aerial poses coupled with linear movements tend to be calming. Gliding in poses such as air surfer or super kid improves whole body strength and stability. Additionally, our approach improves motor planning, rhythm and timing.
These aerial poses provide linear input to help your child feel calm:
Superkid. Lay in the hammock on your stomach. Take your arms out of the hammock and use them to push off the floor. Gently, swing with your arms stretched out in front of you like a super hero.
Air Surfer. Make the hammock skinny. Next, stand in the hammock. Push your arm out one direction and lean your body the opposite direction. Repeat the movement until you start to glide back and forth.
The vestibular system regulates movement, especially head movements. Science tells us vestibular input can improve motor coordination, attention, speech, and posture. At Mindful Child, we enhance vestibular function in both our aerial classes and in children’s therapy.
Su WC, Lin CK, Chang SC. A study of safety and tolerability of rotatory vestibular input for preschool children. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2014 Dec 31;11:41-9. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S76747. PMID: 25657579; PMCID: PMC4317149.