Kristie Koenig, a researcher at NYU Steinhardt, conducted a study that doing Yoga resulted in a significant decrease in aggressive behavior, social withdrawal and hyperactivity for students with autism attending PS 176X in the Bronx. The study was done over a 16 weeks period, 17 minutes a day, five days a week. “We found that teachers’ ratings of students who participated in the daily yoga routine showed improved behavior compared with teachers’ ratings of students who did not,” said Koenig.
“Our aim in this research was to examine the effectiveness of an occupational therapy yoga intervention. Our research indicates that a manualized systemic yoga program, implemented on a daily basis, can be brought to public school classrooms as an option for improving classroom behavior.”
“Get Ready to Learn,” (GRTL) was designed by occupational therapist and yoga instructor Anne Buckley-Reen in 2008, in collaboration with Barbara Joseph, District 75 deputy superintendent, was the intervention program used in the study.
District 75 has the nation’s largest special education population in a public school. GRTL calms and energizes asd students using yoga postures, breathing, and relaxation techniques and helps prepare them for the day mentally.
“GRTL gets children out of the stressed state and prepares their brains and bodies to learn,” Reen explained. “Children with Autism often exhibit characteristics of ‘fight-or-flight’ response. They are in a constant state of stress and struggle with staying calm, trying to concentrate, communicating clearly, or even controlling their movements. Many students with ASD and other challenges have missed critical developmental stages which impact body awareness and perception of self. How can we expect these students to connect to others, if they are not connected to themselves? GRTL provides opportunities to make and strengthen these mind-body connections.”
Teachers led the daily routine that includes eight minutes of varied postures, three minutes of weight-bearing poses, three minutes of deep breathing to help reduce stress, three minutes of muscle tension and release, and concludes with a circle of song. “This circle of song creates a vibrating of the lungs which helps students to find their voice and contribute to classroom harmony,” said Reen. “We sing the name of the students in back and forth exchanges. This encourages engagement from all students, even those with limited speech.”‘
More than 500 classrooms in District 75 across the city of New York with students ages five through 21 with significant disabilities,are currently implementing GRTL. Classrooms in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Vermont are also starting to implement the program as well.
“Programs like this can enhance communication and socialization skills. Parents have seen changes in their children at home. They tell us they have seen improvement in their children’s speech, communication, and behavior.” The study, titled “Efficacy of the Get Ready to Learn Yoga Program Among was conducted by Koenig, Reen, and NYU Steinhardt doctoral student Satvika Garg.