Physios' Newsletter

We've got a mention in Firsthand, the newsletter of the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists, November 2009

A course entitled “Yoga for People with Learning Difficulties – Introductory Course for Physiotherapists” took place on 26 Sept 2009 at St Michaels House, Dublin. The course was given by Maria Gunstone, author of “You and Me Yoga” and tutor of this specialized system of teaching yoga to people with learning difficulties. Maria outlined the background and ethos of the “You & Me Yoga” system, gave an overview of the basic techniques and principles used, and explored different types of learning abilities using the system.

The system is developed to allow the therapist to tailor sessions precisely to the needs of individuals and groups. Maria shared her passion and enthusiasm with 15 physiotherapists from around the country for the system she has developed over the past 20 years whereby she has carried out pioneering work in making yoga accessible and adaptable for people with learning and physical difficulties.

Chartered Physiotherapists in Disability would like to take this opportunity to thank Maria for an excellent course.
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Physical Therapy

YOU & ME Yoga for People with Learning Disabilities

The YOU and ME Yoga system can make a real difference to people's lives, according to a new book on the treatment and management of learning disabilities.

Learning disabilities Physical Therapy Treatment and Management – A collaborative approach, Edited by Jeanette Rennie (pub Wiley, ISBN: 978-0-470-01989-4) includes a chapter on Complementary Therapies with a section on YOU and ME Yoga system, with case studies involving a person with Down's syndrome, autism and the case study below of a young woman with cerebral palsy.

The extracts below are taken from the book:
The YOU and ME Yoga for people with learning disabilities (Gunstone 1988) has been designed for individual needs to improve quality of life by:
  • coordinating the activities of mind and body
  • reducing the distracted state of mind
  • focusing the mind on the present
  • developing the adaptive behaviour
  • enhancing social behaviour
  • increasing self reliance
  • improving general health (Desikachar and Jeyachandran 1983 and 1988)
It is also used to increase students’ mobility, physical dexterity, coordination, communication, sensory awareness and self-confidence.


Programmes are planned in conjunction with the YOU and ME record keeping system, which enables the therapist(s) to see at a glance the condition, limitations and abilities of the student(s). A general health questionnaire is used as appropriate.

The recording charts are used for students’ health, safety and welfare and for keeping a record of practice, outcomes and progress. The colour coding of both the body and the related techniques makes record keeping easy enough for most students to complete their own practice record, and indicate their feelings by ticking the column beneath the most appropriate face (for example, smiling or frowning).

This Yoga programme consists of 22 exercises called ‘joint looseners’ and 20 postures.


Click for full-size image
She is 26 years old and has athetoid cerebral palsy (see Chapter 2). Initially she found it very difficult to control her involuntary movements.

The YOU and ME teaching pack explains everything very clearly with health and safety in mind. Thus trainers are enabled to select a suitable plan for people with or even without a learning disability. The colour-coded instruction pack for the postures was essential to give instructions for working out her programme plan of whole-body movement. Her programme was based on the green chest area for her main posture. It followed a similar warming-up, main posture and winding-down procedure to Table 17.5. Hence her programme benefited the whole of her body.


  • She can consciously relax completely during the relaxation period, keeping her whole body perfectly still.
  • There has been evidence of progress with other members of staff in other learning areas. She is more active and confi dent participation in the swimming pool; her upright sitting position in her own chair has improved; she has progressed to independent transfers from her wheelchair onto the toilet and back again although assistance to adjust her clothing is still required. She has an obvious feeling of achievement and improved dignity.

Whole-body movement is great fun, as well as motivation for learning. Everyone can join in, and anyone can perform the postures regardless of age or ability. Students develop imagination, expression and relationships.
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Yoga - for those with special needs

YOU and ME Yoga - a system of professional yoga training for teachers working with people with special needs, their carers, staff and parents. Click above for a 60 second clip of the system in action at a Cheshire day centre.

Welcome to the YOU & ME Yoga newspages. We will be updating these pages regularly with details of forthcoming courses, new training opportunities - as well as some yoga success stories where the YOU & ME system has really made a difference to people's lives.
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"I have seen great improvements in the students' abilities in the following areas: balance, strength, coordination, body awareness, breath control, posture control, relaxation skills, and social skills.”
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