Have you ever considered yoga for yourself or your child on the autism spectrum?
Yoga and other mindfulness practices offer simple and powerful strategies that can help us feel calm and focused and manage day-to-day stress. Mindfulness simply means paying attention in a relaxed way to what we are experiencing in-the-moment. Yoga is a form of mindfulness practice that uses body positions, movement and breathing exercises.
The following exercises are appropriate and safe for healthy individuals of all ages and do not require any prior yoga experience.
Heart and belly breathing
1) Sit up straight in a comfortable chair or cross-legged on the floor.
2) Place one hand on your heart and the other hand on your belly.
3) Practice breathing slowly and deeply so that you can feel both hands moving as your breathe. Breathing in, feel how the belly expands and the heart lifts. Breathing out, feel how the belly relaxes and the heart softens down.
4) Continue for 2-3 minutes, and then sit quietly, noticing how you feel.
Standing sun breath
1) Stand with your feet planted firmly on the ground and pointing straight ahead.
2) While breathing in, circle your arms out to the sides and then reach up until the palms touch above your head.
3) While breathing out, slowly bring the hands down to rest in front of the heart while relaxing the neck and shoulders.
4) Practice making each movement smooth and slow, matching the pace of the breath.
5) Continue for 8-12 rounds of breath and then pause to notice how you feel.
Savasana or resting pose
1) Lie down on the floor on a yoga mat or blanket with legs and arms relaxed and uncrossed.
2) Use anything you need to make the position feel comfortable and safe: blankets, pillows, weighted blankets or sandbags and eye pillows are popular props. Soft music and aromatherapy oils can also be used to create a calm and soothing environment. Experiment with what feels relaxing for you.
3) Once you are comfortable, remain still and feel your body getting soft and relaxed.
Want more information about yoga?
All exercises and pictures above are from Yoga Connects™, a visual yoga curriculum developed by the author specifically for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
Hannah Gould, M.Ed, RYT is an experienced special educator and yoga teacher who has been involved with AANE in a variety of ways over the years, including writing an article for the AANE journal and presenting at AANE workshops. Hannah coordinates the therapeutic yoga program at NESCA, a private pediatric neuropsychology group practice in Newton, Massachusetts.