Children with autism or ASD frequently suffer from delayed motor development and poor coordination, leading to additional problems such as low self-esteem, teasing, or bullying causing profound social isolation. In addition, their sensitive nervous systems are easily agitated by bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, and other sensory input. Parents, teachers, and other caregivers often struggle with ways to help children cope with much of modern life.
For all practitioners but especially children with autism, yoga tones muscles and enhances balance and stability, develops body awareness, and enhances coordination.
The self-control and calming techniques taught in yoga classes help them become more self-confident and thus able to work on their social skills.
The group setting allows them to learn how to interact closely with others in a supportive and nurturing environment.
Yoga’s natural setting of dim lights, soft music, smooth mats, and quiet voices creates a comforting environment largely protected from unknown or aggressive stimuli and in which calming down becomes enjoyable. Regular practice helps children develop awareness of their own and others’ emotions.
In recent years, many studies and research articles have shown yoga to be especially valuable to children with ASD. A 2010 article in the International Journal of Yoga cited a study by Shantha Radhakrishna showed significant increases in five imitation behavioral traits after participating in a yoga class. A 2012 study in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy looked at the benefits of offering yoga in the public school classroom. The results showed that teachers saw significantly fewer challenging behaviors from ASD students after they participated in the yoga instruction, while the control group’s behaviors actually increased during the same period. Even the conservative Wall Street Journal wrote about the benefits of yoga for children in a 2011 article that stated yoga’s benefits are “particularly strong among children with special needs.” There is much anecdotal evidence across the U.S. about how autistic children respond extremely well and are much better able to handle everyday life after learning and practicing yoga.