Calming The Mind This Weekend

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The weekend is here and the cold weather is joining us. Why not keep the children entertained with some stay at home yoga poses? Yoga is growing in popularity in the U.S. as a complimentary therapy for children with special … Continue reading

Exploring the benefits of yoga for kids with autism

Yoga Therapy for Autism

We are always looking for new therapies and ways to manage symptoms and issues associated with autism, which is a developmental disorder that typically appears within the first 3 years of life. Autism can be mild or severe and interferes with a child’s ability to understand social cues and communicate. An autistic child has difficulty managing emotions and can display aggressive and obsessive behaviors.

The benefits we associate with yoga are improved strength and flexibility, concentration, and stress reduction, but did you know that children with autism and related spectrum issue can find great benefit in yoga as well?

Research has shown children with autism who practice yoga have reductions in anxiety, obsessive and aggressive behaviors. They also have more control regulating their emotions and become more calm and comfortable in their bodies. It becomes easier for them to be in control of their behavior, emotions, and experience less anxiety.

recent study as reported by NPR.com showed that elementary school-age children with autism who participated in a daily yoga program had shown a reduction in hyperactivity, aggressive behavior, and social withdrawal.

Step one to focus on with yoga therapy is breathing. Taking deep breaths and inhaling/exhaling in and out through the nose not only builds core strength, but also at the same time calms the nervous system.  This is very beneficial for an autistic child to learn to incorporate into their daily routines.

The ABCs of Yoga for Kids, which is published by Stafford House Books, Inc, encourages kids to utilize deep breathing with The Inhale Pose. “One of the most important parts/Of any yoga pose,/Is remembering to breathe deeply/By inhaling through the nose.”

Children with autism will gain new motor, communication and social skills through yoga resulting in an overall improvement in their quality of life. Yoga as therapy for autism will help manage the disorder by decreasing anxiety, improving concentration, and regulating self-control.

For more information about alternative therapies for autism, please visit: http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/category/therapy-2/

 

Therapeutic Benefits of Using Yoga in Occupational Therapy

As an occupational therapist, I have used yoga in a variety of ways with clients I’ve worked with.  Yoga is a great way to build strength and body awareness and also improves sensory processing and regulation.  Yoga can be used with clients young and old.

For example, I have used “cat” and “cow” postures to help an adult stroke patient who was unable to use one side of his body to be able to weight bear through his affected arm.  Weight bearing in this position helps to retrain the neurological system so that communication improves between the brain and affected limb.  The proprioceptive input the body receives during weight bearing improves the patient’s awareness of the affected side.  Engaging both arms in the activity improve the patient’s ability to use both arms together.  After participating in activities such as this, the patient starts to be able to move his arm in a more coordinated manner and hopefully will eventually be able to use his arm for functional activities such as dressing and bathing.

Children with a variety of learning disabilities or behaviors can benefit from yoga as well.  For example, children with autism and sensory processing impairments frequently have symptoms such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, difficulty calming, and difficulty attending and focusing on activities. This can be caused by impaired processing of the vestibular (sense of movement), tactile (sense of touch), and proprioceptive (sense of muscles/joints) systems.  Yoga uses all of these senses simultaneously to get into different postures, thus improving the ability to process this information.

In addition to improving how the sensory systems are functioning, yoga also improves sensory regulation.  Regulation refers to the arousal state of the nervous system and includes the ability to attend to tasks.  Children with poor regulation have difficulty attending to tasks, which can impact all daily life activities (for example, sitting at a table to eat or sitting in a classroom).  By using the body to get into various postures, while at the same time bringing conscious attention to breathing, yoga can greatly improve the ability for children to maintain an ideal state of regulation and attend to daily activities.

Although it is obvious that yoga has invaluable benefit for children and adults with a variety of diagnoses and disabilities, yoga can be just as beneficial for adults and children who don’t have any impairments.  For me, it is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety, and it helps me to focus my thoughts and intentions so that I am more productive and feel more satisfied in my day to day activities.  For more information, research yoga programs and studios in your area or contact your local occupational therapist to see if he or she has a yoga program that could benefit your child.

Bio: Andrea is an occupational therapist who earned her Master’s Degree in Health Sciences from the Medical College of Georgia in 2006.  Her areas of expertise include autism and sensory processing disorder (SPD).  She currently owns her own private home-based practice in the North County San Diego area and is passionate about providing humane, effective treatment based on the most current research and treatment practices.  For helpful techniques, tips, and information, follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. To find out information about how to qualify for services with her, visit her website at www.sensorysolutionsinc.com.