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A Guide to Yoga for Autism

Yoga has become a popular form of exercise and stress relief for people of all ages, and it’s especially beneficial for kids with autism. From improving social skills to enhancing body awareness and reducing stress, yoga can be a powerful tool for your child. In this post, I’ll share how you can introduce yoga into your kiddo’s routine and explore the many benefits it offers. Whether you’re a parent or a therapist, you’ll find valuable insights and practical tips to help your child thrive through yoga.

Benefits of Yoga for Autism

Yoga gives kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) several physical and emotional benefits. Research has found yoga can help reduce the severity of symptoms of ASD. Including improved communication, better behavior, and increased sensory processing. 

Movement is a powerful tool when it comes to managing the symptoms of autism. Physical activity helps boost mood and overall energy levels. While also providing an outlet for kids to release all of their pent-up energy. Moving also helps children learn how to use their bodies. Yoga is a great form of movement because it’s gentle yet challenging enough to be an effective exercise. With regular practice of yoga poses and breathing exercises, kids with autism can learn how to regulate their emotions and behaviors. This helps them better cope with stress or anxiety-inducing situations in daily life. 

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Developing Mind-body Awareness

One of the biggest benefits of yoga for kids with autism is that it encourages them to connect body movements with controlled breathing. Which is difficult for some children on the spectrum to do by themselves. Yoga poses are an opportunity for kids with ASD to learn how breathing can be a tool for calming down and regulating emotions during times of stress or overstimulation. It encourages mindful awareness, which helps children focus on being present in the moment. Yoga calms the mind and can help reduce feelings of overwhelm that can cause meltdowns or outbursts. 

Opportunities To Practice Social Skills and Self-Regulation

Another benefit of yoga for kids with autism is improving their social skills. Yoga classes provide a structured and safe environment. Kids with autism can practice social skills with other children and adults. During yoga classes, kids with autism learn to work on skills such as taking turns, following directions, and waiting for their turn. 

a young girl practicing yoga for autism poses
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Practicing yoga requires focus and concentration. This helps children with autism develop self-regulation skills that can use in day-to-day social situations. The group setting of a yoga class provides opportunities for children with autism to practice socializing with their peers and even create new friendships. The social aspects of yoga help kids with autism build confidence and improve social skills in a fun and engaging environment.

Yoga Poses for Autism

Yoga poses specifically for kids with autism should be simple yet effective enough to improve strength, flexibility, and balance. While still being fun and engaging. Here are some popular examples: 

  • Cat/Cow – Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees, then inhale as you arch your back like a cat. Then exhale as you round your back like a cow. Repeat 5 times. 
  • Tree pose– Stand tall, then shift your weight onto one foot while bringing the other foot up onto your inner thigh; hold the pose for 15-20 seconds before switching sides. 
  • Child’s Pose– Start in tabletop position, then sit back onto your heels, drop your chest between your legs; stay here for 30-60 seconds.  
  • Corpse Pose– Lie flat on your back, spread your arms out wide; relax into this posture for 3-5 minutes, and focus on deep breaths!
a mom and her daughter practicing yoga for autism poses
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Tips for Teaching Yoga Poses

When teaching yoga poses to children with autism it’s important to keep things simple yet engaging. Some tips include:

  1. Breaking down each pose step-by-step.
  2. Incorporating visual cues such as pictures or diagrams to make poses easier to visualize and achieve 
  3. Combine breath work and movement together in the beginning (so they learn how one influences the other)
  4. Play calming music/sounds during relaxation time, 
  5. Practice makes perfect! Allow plenty of time for practice but keep sessions short so kids don’t lose interest.
  6. Remember, each child will learn at different speeds, be flexible and figure out what works best for them! 

In conclusion, yoga offers so many physical and emotional benefits. Especially for our kiddos with autism! Regularly practicing yoga poses for autism helps reduce stress levels while improving strength, balance, and flexibility all at the same time! Follow the tip , such as breaking down each pose step-by-step and using visual cues when necessary. This way, you can be sure that your child reaps all benefits of this fun form of exercise!

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Yoga as a therapeutic strategy for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) shows a great deal of promise. Research suggests that yoga can provide a non-competitive, calming, and embodied way of enhancing physical strength, flexibility, and balance. Moreover, yoga’s focus on mindfulness and breath control can help improve concentration, reduce anxiety, and encourage self-regulation, which can particularly benefit those with autism. Yoga can be tailored to the individual’s abilities and needs, making it a versatile tool. However, it is essential to bear in mind that, like any therapy, yoga may not be beneficial or suitable for everyone with ASD, and its practice should be incorporated as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. More research is needed to firmly establish the scope and limits of yoga’s effectiveness for autism and to develop evidence-based protocols. As of now, yoga for autism offers a holistic and integrative approach that nurtures both the mind and the body, thereby improving overall well-being.

FAQ’s About Yoga for Autism

What are the benefits of yoga for kids with autism?
Yoga helps kids with autism by improving their social skills, body awareness, and reducing stress levels.

How can yoga help improve social skills in children with autism?
Yoga encourages group activities and partner poses, promoting interaction and communication among kids.

What types of yoga poses are best for kids with autism?
Simple, calming poses like child's pose, butterfly pose, and cat-cow are great for kids with autism.

How often should children with autism practice yoga?
Kids with autism can benefit from practicing yoga a few times a week, even just 10-15 minutes per session.

Can yoga help with sensory processing issues in children with autism?
Yes, yoga can help by providing sensory input through movement and deep breathing, which can calm the nervous system.

This post was originally published on 01/05/2023. It was updated on 06/14/2024.

Article by

Emily is a seasoned blog writer for Goally, leveraging her extensive background in child psychology and special education to provide valuable insights and resources for parents. Her commitment to understanding and addressing the unique needs of these children, combined with her expertise in educational strategies, makes her a credible and empathetic voice for families.

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