3 Ways to Unlock the Benefits of Yoga for Autism
Professionals have been using yoga to treat individuals with autism for over 20 years. Today it is widely accepted as an effective form of treatment for many different conditions including anxiety and sensory processing disorders as well as developmental delays associated with autism spectrum disorder.
Studies show that practicing yoga can lead to reduced aggression and better impulse control in individuals with autism and other special needs. In addition, autistic children who regularly participate in yoga classes have been found to display increased confidence and self-esteem when compared to those who do not practice regularly. The popularity of yoga for special needs continues to grow each year as more parents seek out alternative methods for supporting their child’s development.
Increasing Self Awareness
Through gentle stretching, mindfulness practices, and breathing exercises, yoga helps autistic kids gain greater insight into how their body moves and feels. By learning to recognize physical sensations such as tension or relaxation in the body, children can apply this understanding to better manage their own emotions and behavior. This increased awareness can lead to healthier coping skills when facing difficult emotions or challenging situations.
In fact, studies show that regular yoga practice is linked to reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, anger, and aggression in adults and children on the autism spectrum. These benefits are further enhanced when combined with other forms of therapy like occupational therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Improving Motor Skills and Coordination
By promoting concentration and balance while activating the muscles in the arms, legs, and core, yoga improves proprioception – one’s understanding of where their body is in space. Yoga uses a series of larger movements that involve multiple joints (such as jumping jacks and downward-facing dog poses) to build strength, endurance, and agility. As kids become more aware of how their bodies move through space, they gain confidence when attempting physical activities that require gross motor skills. From running and playing sports games to simply performing everyday tasks.
Yoga supports fine motor skills too. Practicing exercises that require precision in movement (such as finger pointing or squeezing with hands), helps kids strengthen the key muscles necessary for writing legibly or drawing shapes accurately. Using props like inflatable balls during yoga classes introduces another element of tactile stimulation that further enhances fine motor skills among those with autism.
Building Social Skills
Yoga provides a safe and supportive environment for children with autism to learn how to interact with others without feeling overwhelmed or overly stimulated by their surroundings. Through various poses and mindfulness practices, autistic kids can develop better self-control and recognize emotions in themselves. This recognition can lead to improved social skills such as sharing, cooperation, communication, problem solving, and expressing feelings in appropriate ways. Interestingly, yoga encourages eye contact, which also helps kids on the spectrum become more aware of the people around them.
Yoga doesn’t just benefit autistic kids, but also plays a supportive role for their parents or caretakers by providing an opportunity for meaningful connection. Active shared participation in guided breathing exercises and poses helps parents to strengthen bonds and kids to better express themselves nonverbally through movement. The practice of mindful movement creates a safe space where families can share moments of joy together. Moments that may otherwise be hard for those affected by autism to experience due to sensory sensitivities or social challenges.