Yoga therapy is a process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well being through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga. Scientific research on the impact of yoga therapy on human health is relatively limited but tends to increase due to the rise of popularity of yoga.
The top four areas of research into Yoga therapy are: mental health disorders, cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases and musculoskeletal systems.
I am personally interested in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Those kids typically display poor eye contact and sitting tolerance, poor balance and awkward body posture, poor imitation skills, poor breath awareness, poor receptive skills related to spatial relationships.
Few studies have already shown the impact of yoga therapy on those children:
- Improvements in sensory integration, attention, sensory defensiveness, and increased verbal receptivity for commands related to spatial perception(1)(2)
- Increased concentration, focus, organisation, and relaxation after 25 yoga sessions(3)
The overwhelming feelings that a child with ASD is experiencing are manifesting as physical sensations and stress. Therefore, addressing these body reactions with regular practice of yoga postures is a great place to start.
The most kid-friendly yoga poses to support those kids are:
|Bee’s breath||Sitting on the knees, the kid inhales and extends his spine with arms back.
He then exhales and lower his forehead toward the ground, buzzing like a bee all the way down
|Create a moment of pause to help release tension|
|Cat Pose||The kid inhales and looks up, letting the spine drop low.
He then exhales and tucks the chin, lifting his spine up like a cat
|Release frustration, stress or anger
|Cloud pose||The kid inhales and bends his knee, and scoops the invisible clouds in front of him.
He then exhales and straighten his legs, lifting the arms above his head
|Scoop all the invisible frustration in front of him. Helpful to name the feeling without having to solve it yet|
|Tree Pose||Standing up, the kid must become tall and extend his spine. One foot rests on the other ankle or above the knee until the right balance is found. His hands can be palm-to-palm at his chest or in the air like branches.
After a few breathes, he can switch feet.
|The stillness and concentration required in this pose brings rest to a frustrated mind|
|Child Pose||Begin the position on hands and knees. The kid then sits back on his heels and brings the chest to rest on top of his thighs. Arms can be stretched out in front or tucked in by his sides.
He can then breathe deeply and rest
|Wonderful calming effect on the central nervous system|
Yoga is non-invasive and has no side-effects. Parents and therapists get more and more convinced about the benefit of yoga practise as complementary and alternative medicine for children with ASD.
I am confident that there is much more to explore on the value and benefits of yoga therapy for children with ASD as well as children with other special needs.
(1) Kenny M. Integrated movement therapy. [cited on 2002].
(2) Goldeberg L. Creative relaxation a yoga based program for regular and exceptional student education.Int J Yoga Ther. 2004;14:67–78
(3) Oldenberg L. Use of yoga with occupational therapy.Int J Yoga Ther. 2004;12:71–7