Yoga as Therapy for Autism


Before writing for The Daily Greens, teaching yoga, and becoming a mom I was a teacher in the public school system for 6 years.  I had the pleasure of teaching Kindergarten, 2nd and 4th grade as well as Health, General Chemistry, and Honors Chemistry at the high school level for the bulk of the time.

During my teaching days I witnessed students and families face a multitude of challenges, one of the most frustrating being an autism diagnosis.  Autism is a disorder that appears during the first 3 years of life, which affects the brain’s development of social and communication skills.  1 in 100 children in the U.S. now seem to be affected by autism compared to 20 years ago where 1 in 1,000 were diagnosed.  This increase can possibly be attributed to more stringent diagnosis criteria, however, for the individuals and families dealing with autism it is still just as challenging.

At this time there is no cure for autism but there are treatments and the younger kids are when they start treatment the better…

In Boulder, CO Nicole Calvano has started a new after school program for 6th to 12th graders using yoga as therapy to help the students deal with their autism.  According to Nicole “it’s really profound, giving [students] a chance to connect with their bodies, when they generally tend to feel a bit a alienated from their bodies.  [Yoga] is an ideal antidote to their inner feelings of brokenness and needing to be fixed that often comes with autism.  Yoga reminds [them] that we are whole and perfect as we are, and gives [them] permission to express our infinite Selves.”

Trevor Parent (left) and Paige Kinnaman (right) try to balance during yoga class at Temple Grandin in Boulder. ( MARK LEFFINGWELL )

Advocates say, because of yoga’s non-competitive environment and self-calming techniques, yoga is “ideal” for people with autism.  Student’s nervous systems are soothed allowing for a mind body connection to take place, they experience a boost in self confidence, and improve their motor and communication skills.

More official scientific studies do need to be performed, there are research papers that support yoga’s benefits (see here and here).  But as an educator of kids, yoga teacher, and mother I’m overjoyed to see yoga teachers making it their mission to help improve the lives of kids dealing with autism.

Watch Nicole teaching here.

Be Inspired,

Kelly 

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