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Yoga for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Yoga kids
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Kids who have autism can benefit from practicing yoga. Yoga helps kids to focus and calm down. It also helps with body awareness, balance, coordination, and the development of cognitive skills. Yoga poses can be adapted for kids with autism so that they can still participate in the class and get the benefits of yoga.

Yoga has been shown to help improve attention, focus, and calmness in children. In general, yoga is a great way to get kids moving and promote a healthy lifestyle. In addition to the benefits that yoga offers all children, yoga can be especially helpful for children with autism.

yoga, sunset, mountains

Some benefits of yoga for children with autism include:

  1. Improved focus and concentration
  2. Increased body awareness
  3. Improved balance and coordination
  4. Increased strength and flexibility
  5. Improved social skills

In this article, we will talk discuss how yoga can help children with Autism to lead a better life. We will ensure to guide you through some effective yoga poses that might help them with strength, flexibility, anxiety, social-communicative behaviors, obsessive behaviors, and self-stimulatory activities.

Benefits of Yoga for Kids

Coach assisting kids in practicing yoga

Yoga is a practice of retrieving and integrating our body, mind, and spirit. It’s a commonly known practice for pursuing inner harmony and peace along with outer strength and flexibility. However, yoga is not just for adults. In fact, yoga can provide children with important life skills to lead a better physical, emotional and social life. 

There are many benefits of yoga for kids. Yoga is a great way to get kids moving and promote a healthy lifestyle. Some other positive effects of yoga for children include:

Helps Manage Anxiety

Deep breathing exercises along with relaxation methods learned from yoga may help children to deal with their stress and reduce anxiety. When children are anxious, they often tense up their bodies. This may lead to headaches, stomach aches, and other physical problems.

Yoga helps children learn how to control their breaths and release the tension in their bodies. Yoga enables children to focus on something positive and calming, which may help them manage the anxiety of their lives.

Improves Emotional Regulation

As kids learn to control their bodies and minds through yoga, they can develop a greater sense of self-awareness and self-regulation. This can be extremely helpful for children with autism who often have difficulty regulating their emotions.

Helps Children with Sensory Processing Difficulties

Yoga helps sensory processing in children. As children with autism have difficulty processing information, they often feel overwhelmed and resulting in meltdowns or tantrums. Yoga helps to calm the nervous system and allows children to process information more effectively.

Improve Social Skills

Many kids with autism have trouble with social interactions. They may not understand sarcasm or know how to participate in a conversation.

Yoga can help kids learn how to interact with others in a positive way. Through yoga games and poses, kids learn how to take turns, cooperate with others, and copy other poses which are important social skills.

Increases Body Awareness

As kids learn to focus on their bodies and their breath, they become more in tune with their movements and thoughts. Yoga helps kids learn about their own strengths and weaknesses.

Yoga allows a child to learn about the movements they are capable of doing. Yoga may also help improve the way children process sensory information. It helps children to focus on one thing at a time.

Enhances Concentration 

When children learn new yoga poses, they are practicing coordination and focus. Over time, this trains the brain to focus better and remember things more easily. As kids focus on their breath and body movements, they learn to quiet their minds. This can be helpful for children who often have difficulty paying attention.

Improves Strength and Flexibility

As a whole, yoga can be an incredibly beneficial activity for children of all ages and abilities. Yoga helps children to strengthen their muscles and improve their flexibility. Practicing yoga on a regular basis reduces the chances of injury. 

As children learn to control their bodies, they develop greater muscle control. This is an important skill for children to sit up straight, engage in sports and, complete table-top activities such as handwriting.

Development of Proprioception

In addition, poses in yoga can help develop proprioception. Proprioception is the awareness of where our body is in space. Many kids with autism have difficulty with proprioception. By practicing these poses, kids with autism can develop a better sense of where their bodies are and how they move through space.

Enjoying this article? You might also enjoy our blog on the association between toe walking and autism. Learn more about how this common motor pattern may be related to autism spectrum disorder and what you can do to support your child’s development.

Why Yoga is Good for Kids with Autism?

Happy people woman and little kid practicing yoga indoor, sittin

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects how a child interacts or relates to their surrounding. Autism is considered as a spectrum condition as it comes with different degrees of difficulty and severity. Thus, even if two children with autism share similar difficulties, they are likely to show different behaviors. 

Common challenges for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Behavioral problems
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Poor communication skills
  • Delayed motor skills
  • Sensitivity issues
  • Hyperactivity 
  • Impaired coordination

Over the years, there have been research studies showing the effects of yoga on children with Autism. These include yoga improving “focus and attention, sensory information process, communication, self-regulation, and motor control” (Ehleringer, 2010).

Yoga, as it incorporates whole-body movements, is one of the practices that can calm the nervous system and allows kids to process information more effectively. Additionally, some research has supported the use for children with sensory processing issues.

Furthermore, yoga therapy helps to increase body awareness and flexibility, while also enhancing concentration and memory. Finally, regular yoga practice can improve strength and coordination. All of these benefits make yoga an excellent activity for ASD children.

Tips for Introducing Yoga to Children

girl in red long sleeve shirt standing near brown wooden fence during daytime

However, when practicing yoga with a child, it is important to keep the following in mind:

1. Be patient and take your time. Do not expect the child to do every pose perfectly or to stay in each pose for a long period of time.

2. Keep sessions short at first. As the child becomes more comfortable with yoga, lengthen the sessions.

3. Make sure the child is comfortable and not in pain.

4. Use props to help the child feel supported and stable in each pose.

5. Encourage the child to move at their own pace and do what feels comfortable for them.

6. Be positive and praise the child for their efforts, no matter how small they may be.

7. Have fun! Yoga should be enjoyable for children.

Yoga Postures for Kids

There are many yoga poses that are perfect for kids with or without autism. Below are a few of our favorites:

Sitting Posture

This is one of the easiest yoga postures that may benefit children in many ways. It’s an excellent exercise to start off to make your child feel successful with the yoga sessions. Sitting in this position calms their mind and relaxes the muscles.

Although it may be a tricky pose for some kids with low tone, it is a yoga practice that prepares the child for future exercises. 

Downward Dog Posture

With this pose, children can build strength and flexibility. It is a great exercise to help with proprioception, where the child can focus on pushing against their hands and develop body awareness in this manner.

It can also help develop interoception and help children focus on how their muscles are feeling. This is especially easy in the downward dog pose as we can draw their attention to tiredness in their arms and a stretch in their legs.

In the longer run, a downward dog helps to improve coordination and builds strength. This pose is also helpful in calming the brain and relieving stress.

Cat Posture Posture

Yoga at home: Cat Pose

This pose helps to stretch the back and neck. Cat pose allows your child to understand the connection between breath and body. It also prepares their body for future yoga postures.

Tree Posture

Woman standing in yoga tree pose indoors

Tree pose is one of the standing poses that is great for improving strength, balance, coordination, and focus in children. It is a balancing posture that not only strengthens your child’s legs but also offers them a visualization.

As this yoga pose needs concentration, it helps a child with Autism to improve body awareness, focus, and balance.

Warrior Posture

Group of people in warrior yoga pose

The yoga posture is known for improving coordination and strength. This pose gently stretches the leg, chest, and shoulder muscles.

Although it may look like a simple pose, the challenge of bending their knee can easily make this pose more challenging.

Lionโ€™s Breath Posture

This is an exercise that encourages your child to roar on exhaling. It is a yoga practice that stretches the facial muscles and helps to release tightness and tension.

Children often like pretending to be different animals and therefore, this is a great pose for children. With a roar, the child can release all their unwanted emotions and feelings in a positive manner.

Conclusion

Yoga has many benefits for children with autism. It can help to improve strength, flexibility, coordination, and focus. Yoga is also a great way to help ASD children learn to control their bodies and breathe. With the right method and props, yoga can be a fun and therapeutic activity for kids with autism.

We are seeing yoga used in classrooms and homes, whether it is to help with breathing, as a movement break, or just a form of exercise or activity.

There are increasing numbers of studies showing the benefit of yoga, especially in children with ASD.

References

5 Great Yoga Poses for Children with Autism to Practice. (2022). Retrieved 16 March 2022, from https://www.yourlittleprofessor.com/yoga-poses-for-autism/

6 Benefits of Yoga for Children with Autism. (2022). Retrieved 16 March 2022, from https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/creating-inner-peace-the-benefits-of-yoga-for-children-with-autism-spectrum-disorder/

7 Benefits of Yoga for Young Kids | Arizona Early Childhood. (2022). Retrieved 16 March 2022, from https://azearlychildhood.org/resources/articles/7-benefits-of-yoga-for-young-kids/

Ehleringer, J. (2010). Yoga for Children on the Autism Spectrum. International Journal Of Yoga Therapy20(1), 131-139. doi: 10.17761/ijyt.20.1.eu176u2721423510

Times Now News. (2022). Retrieved 16 March 2022, from https://www.timesnownews.com/health/article/autistic-pride-day-2018-five-effective-yoga-poses-for-autistic-children-yoga-for-kids-international-yoga-day/242082

Yoga For Children With Autism – Himalaya Yoga Valley. (2022). Retrieved 16 March 2022, from https://yogagoaindia.com/yoga-for-children-with-autism/#:~:text=Yoga%20seems%20to%20be%20a,self%20esteem%20and%20communication%20skills.

Yoga International (2022). Retrieved 16 March 2022, from https://yogainternational.com

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