The ancient art of yoga is proving to have great benefits for children on the autism spectrum. Yoga comprehensively addresses their heightened anxiety, poor motor coordination and weak self-regulation, something that otherwise is very difficult to do.
Yoga is particularly instrumental in helping kids with autism learn self-regulation. By becoming aware of their bodies and aware of their breathing, yoga provides them with the ability to cope when they start to feel anxious or upset.
Many yoga for autism classes teach yoga poses or breathing techniques specifically intended to help children contend with their escalating emotions. Since these children are visually oriented, savvy instructors add a visual element so that the child has a colored picture of each pose near his or her mat. Parents are also given pictures of the poses so that they can do them at home with their child.
Often, classes incorporate other experiences known to benefit a child on the autism spectrum, such as massage, music, dance, rhymes and stories. Music engages the brain and promotes communication. Massage aids in relaxation and facilitates the giving and receiving of affection. Being able to dance about in contrast to the stationary poses of yoga and the addition of the language element of rhymes and stories complete what amounts to amazing and fun intervention.
Some schools go so far as to offer their students with autism yoga in the classroom, which is very smart on their part and helps create a successful classroom experience for autism spectrum students. My son had a teacher in middle school who let him lead the class in yoga and it bolstered his self-esteem and helped him go the last half of the school year with nary a meltdown.
Early on, I realized that managing my sons’ autism was energetic rather than disciplinary. Good teachers know this as well. Parents find that the quality of their child’s life improves through practicing yoga, that they become more communicative, calmer and sleep through the night. Teachers greet children who demonstrate more focus and less volatility and the child experiences the pride and self confidence that comes with gaining new skills.