Yoga although originated in the northern part of India, over 5000 years ago. However, it has widely spread across the world and has been into practice since ages. Yoga consists of numerous breathing techniques and body postures that are used to facilitate body fitness and healing. Other than these, meditation plays a significant role in improving the emotional well being. In essence, yoga therapy proves to be a holistic approach in its physical and psychotherapy benefits, complementary to other therapies.
Now, owing to its ever-rising popularity, it is actively being adapted for the benefit of children with Autism and Special needs. To have a better understanding of how Yoga can benefit those with Autism or having special needs, it’s imperative to understand the challenges that are associated with these neurotypical disorders.
Challenges are faced by those with ASD and special needs
- Persistent difficulty in social communication and interaction. For instance, for a child or an adult who is on the Autism Spectrum, it would be difficult to initiate or carry forward a conversation.
- Further, it may be difficult for such individuals to understand and practice social rules like the distance one should have from the others while having a conversation, or how to make friends, or build a relationship.
- Children who are on the Autism Spectrum generally show restricted and repetitive behavioural patterns. For example, they may form an intense interest in a particular thing or activity, follow schedules and routines strictly, exhibit repetitive body movement, etc.
- They may have sensory issues because of which they either avoid or seek sensory inputs. This even manifests as behavioural issues.
- Also, children with Autism or other special needs are at a probability of physically hurting themselves.
- Due to underlying physiological issues, the child might have a tendency of exhibiting aggressive behaviour.
In a nutshell, there are numerous challenges and issues that are associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder and related special needs. However, early intervention and clinical support extended by an experienced child counsellor and occupational therapist can align things to fall on the right track and help a child live life to the fullest.
Benefits of Yoga in dealing with the challenges
Like mentioned earlier, Yoga therapy is one such intervention that can leave some great impacts when used in combination with other therapies intended for the holistic development of the child. Here are a handful of benefits of Yoga therapy for children with Autism and Special needs listed in detail.
- Yoga incorporates the presence of positive energy, which flows in human bodies. The yoga therapy as a healing procedure includes addressing all energy blockages that may result in an emotional or physical imbalance. Addressing all energy blockages can help alleviate the true underlying root cause behind emotional imbalance.
- Yoga therapy helps in building a better body-balance through a plethora of techniques that include asana or body postures that one performs during the Yoga therapy session. Children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder may have sensory issues, wherein they may seek or resist some inputs. This can be dealt with or at least the effects can be decreased in intensity through the regular practising of body postures in Yoga therapy sessions.
- Other than body postures and movements, Yoga therapy includes practicing Meditation. Autism, being a complex neurobehavioral condition that leads to difficulty in social interaction and other behavioral issues, regularly meditating can bring about mind relaxation and promote mindfulness. It can also help in relieving stress and get good sleep. Thus, meditation can bring about a positive change in behavioral issues that are associated with Autism and special needs.
- Yoga proves to be a great technique for kids diagnosed with ASD. It helps them understand and learn the way to calm themselves. This can also be practiced as a beneficial home activity, wherein a child can share flashcards having Yoga poses with the parent.
- According to studies, the benefits of practicing Yoga for children with Autism and Special needs are limited, however, multifaceted. As a whole, Yoga helps improve body balance, strength, coordination, physical flexibility, etc.
- Other than these, Yoga Therapy helps in improving body awareness, language and social communication skills, social-emotional skills, concentration, focus, self-regulation, and others.
- Apart from these, Yoga therapy also benefits by diminishing some unwanted aspects or behaviours. This includes reduction in self-stimulatory behaviour, obsession, anxiety, aggression and impulsiveness.
- Practicing yoga in combined group therapy sessions may also help in directly improving the social interaction and communication skills of children having Autism, who generally face this challenge.
- Having regular Yoga Therapy sessions can also help children with Autism and various special needs build skills in eye contact and achieve sitting tolerance.
Acknowledging such great benefits of Yoga therapy, several child counselling centres, special needs schools have integrated Yoga therapy as a part of their curriculum. Caregivers have started include Yoga therapy as a part of the routine of their children with Autism and special needs.