Yoga benefits children with autism as well as children of all levels of development, thinking, and processing.
As a teacher and yoga instructor, I find that more and more parents are becoming aware of the benefits of yoga, especially for children. In my yoga classes that I teach I have children of all ages, ethnicities, and development. I teach children at –risk, children with autism, and children with behavior issues. What I’ve noticed is that yoga works. Parents often ask me what the benefits are of yoga. For me, I wanted to know how yoga benefits children who may have Autism Spectrum Disorder. Here are a few more things that I’ve discovered.
- Managing Stress: Yoga teaches children how to relax the mind and body, especially when there’s stress or anxiety in life. For example, we talk about how mouse pose or child’s pose is a great pose to do when one is feeling sad, overwhelmed, or upset. Since yoga focuses a lot on breathing, we share how taking deep breaths can help relax the body and mind. In yoga, we also use a lot of imagery or visualizations-another way to help deal with anxiety or stress. These are excellent coping tools that children can take with them and apply in their everyday life.
- Brain-Work: Through story-telling, songs, and chants, yoga is an emotional journey as well as a physical one. These experiences help children with their emotional development, giving them opportunities to share and experience gratitude and positive experiences with peers. Through sharing stories, children share ideas and feelings with each other, which helps them gain identification with each other.
- Body Self-Awareness: Yoga teaches children about their bodies. We learn what our bodies are capable of doing, how to listen to our bodies, and our bodies as a human instrument. Children continuously learn about where their bodies are in space, which helps with coordination, stability, and balance. When children move through the poses, they move slowly, which engages and strengthens their muscles. This in turn helps with fine and gross motor skills.
- Positive Habit-forming: We are creatures of habit. It’s important for us to find habits that are good for us, such as brushing our teeth in the mornings and evenings, exercising, and reading. Yoga is a great habit and can be a great substitute for watching T.V. or dwelling on the negative. Certain “ticks” that children adopt, can be replaced with yoga movements. Children love the songs and chants in yoga. The deep breathing and meditation are also habit-forming, which is a great alternative to some of the other not-so-good habits that kids are forming these days.
It seems as though yoga's benefits are infinite. Yoga has something to offer everyone and can be done anywhere. Our children today are so fortunate to have all of these tools to use throughout life. They are life skills to share with everyone, especially those with any sort of special need. It's a connection that we all have, as everyone can incorporate it into their daily lives. Enjoy sharing it with your friends and family.