Research shows that yoga helps children and teens cope with ordinary coming-of-age physical and psychological stumbling blocks. But it’s only recently that advocates of yoga have begun to see yoga’s potentially far-reaching benefits for kids with autism.
Kids with autism suffer from a wide range of difficulties, including high levels of anxiety and depression, difficulty with imitation, and the inability to make eye contact or feel comfortable in their physical selves. By teaching kids to be more connected with their bodies, and offering a casual social setting to do so, yoga is proving to be the perfect practice.
According to a recent story in the Daily Camera, an online publication based in Colorado, some regional high schools are starting to offer yoga classes to teens with autism and seeing great benefits. One school is Silver Creek High School in Longmont; another is Temple Grandin in Boulder, which is a 6-12 grade school for children with autism. In April, in honor of Autism month, Temple Grandin organized its first ever YogaFest, which offered yoga classes to students at the school. Now, the director of support services at the school, Nisa Hallesy, says that regular classes will be offered weekly in the next semester.
According to advocates, the simple instructions offered in yoga classes help students with skills like eye contact and imitation (they watch the teacher raise a hand or lift a leg and then learn to repeat that same action), and the environment is conducive to improving socialization. But of course, the way that yoga reduces anxiety, which can be debilitating for those with autism, is the most profound. By centering the body and paying attention to the breath, children and teens report that they feel more in control and calm. "We are looking at opportunities to help them calm, to soothe their nervous system," Hallesy told the Daily Camera.
Check out a sweet video that shows the kids at Temple Grandin practicing yoga.