How Yoga Helps Reduce Autism Symptoms in Children

Autism has been more identifiable in the last few years. Due to this, it’s been found that 1 in 68 kids are on the spectrum of it. It is challenging to work and support children with ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder for teachers, parents, and other caregivers in society.

The common challenges that most kids will face including their ability to be expressive when they communicate. They may have a problem with sensory integration and face emotional and social challenges because of this. They have a hard time understanding social cues like facial expressions or body language. They will often feel anxiety also.

Anxiety In Children with Autism and Yoga

Children who have autism have different sensory experiences from people. Due to this, it can cause them to react as though they are stuck in the fight/flight response. They may also freeze up. This can cause problems like an increase in their heart rate, heightened cortisol levels, problems with digestion, and shallow breathing. This actually all makes their anxiety worse.

Through the practice of corpse pose or Shavasana, children find it easier to regulate their emotions and become calmer in many settings.

Yoga Aids in Visualization

Visualization practice has been found to be highly effective for kids with autism. With tools that have been developed, kids can imitate and model a physical action or posture. So for example, a tree or mountain pose. Through instruction, kids can imagine that they are a tall tree or a mountain. Some children with autism don’t even speak and they don’t have their own language but they can do these exercises.

There is a problem engaging for some kids and motor planning can be challenging. A visual cue triggers something in their mind where they are able to replicate the pose. This is helpful in developing the motor skills.

Yoga Increases Social Skills

One study says that yoga therapy helps people improve their imitation skills. The same study found that yoga increased cognitive skills and how children with ASD socialize. Through yoga, kids with autism make eye contact more. They were more tolerant when it came to sitting and peaceful while doing non-verbal communication which is otherwise challenging and frustrating. To understand one’s actions is all about developing social skills.

Yoga poses and the breathing involved gets kids imitating the actions of the teacher. It is also helpful in getting the kids to pay attention. Through visualization techniques, guided imagery, and the repetition of using the same words over and over, kids with autism can be better supported in developing their language and communication skills.

Awareness and Expression

Yoga practice has been found to help kids with autism be more aware of social cues like facial expressions. It also helps them to become aware of their own emotions and how they express themselves. Children with ASD will often have a hard time expressing and receiving communication. This can cause them to become frustrated and behave inappropriately. The breathing strategies of yoga can help children deal with their anger or frustration. By understanding deep breathing, they can use it to relax them when they become agitated.

When they know that there is a good way to express emotions and feel them, they are given a healthy outlet. The message is that it’s okay to feel frustrated but breathing is a way you can release it in a constructive way.

Challenging Behaviors are Reduced

Children with ASD understandably feel frustrated. They have a hard time with language and communication. They have a hard time paying attention for long periods of time and integrated the senses. When they become frustrated, they may exhibit challenging behaviors. This makes it difficult for them to be in school or in other social situations.

A recent study found that yoga helps to improve behavior in kids with autism. The study was done over a 16-week period. There was an improvement in every single child. Within the practice, there were breathing and yoga poses. It was believed that yoga reduced their anxiety, which impacts their mood and how they behave.

It also helps children to self-regulate and cope in the real world. Sensory integration allows us to organize ourselves; we control our state of alertness and keep our emotions in check with it. Children with autism find this challenging. It is often a source of their frustration and can cause them to feel less energetic, moodier, and exhibit bad behavior. Poses and breathing in yoga help build the sensory systems that support self-regulation and sensory integration. This helps to alleviate aggression and acting out by a significant amount.

While there are limited studies on how yoga effects autism, the symptoms that come with it are often eased through yoga poses and breathing. It is quickly becoming a popular therapy for children with autism. Innovative yoga programs are happening all over the U.S. There is even a teacher who has specifically designed a type of yoga called YogAutism. It is designed to improve strength, help kids to become more flexible and increase a child’s sense of peace. It also helps with many of the acute autistic symptoms such as pain, anxiety, obsessing, and aggression. It is our hope that it helps children with autism become more comfortable in their own skin, have an easier time making friends, and have an easier time regulating their emotions. Advocates of yoga believe this is the case.

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Meera Watts
Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur, and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes, and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga.
Meera Watts

Meera Watts

Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur, and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes, and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga.

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