Managing your autistic child anxiety with Yoga
Why Yoga For Stress Relief?
Yoga is popularly known to be a great antidote to stress as it combines many popular stress-relieving techniques, such as stretching, breathing exercises, relaxing the body, and clearing the mind. Interestingly enough, one study of 131 people showed that people who had to undergo a three-month yoga program exhibited lower levels of stress, fatigue, depression, and anxiety.
Using Yoga With Autistic Kids
Children with ASD can exhibit a broad range of difficulty in one or more areas, such as social challenges and receptive communication. As a result of these difficulties, children can be in a constant state of fight or flight mode. This state of anxiousness tends to move into hyperventilation as the perception of threat triggers a stress response.
By integrating yoga into your child's daily routine can improve balance and body awareness as it can help the child retain his or her automatic stress reaction and help develop skills that are vital in encouraging the child to interact better in the world around them. This practice also supports mindful breathing to release tension and calm their nervous systems to promote overall well-being.
Why Autistic Children Can Benefit From Yoga
Yoga poses can offer relief from the constant over-stimulation of the child's nervous system and provide a present moment to help them become more aware of their own body and how it interacts with their surroundings. Researchers have also suggested that yoga can provide myriads of benefits for children with ASD as it can soothe stress and anxiety by regular yoga practice. A small-scale study has concluded that a five-hour yoga session per week resulted in incremental changes in terms of joint attention and communication, along with a remarkable reduction in anxiety.
Furthermore, another study conducted by the American Journal of Occupational Therapy showed that yoga has been particularly effective in sustaining attention in children with autism and helps them improve school performance. One key technique that assists children and helps them to cope with autism is pranayama, which helps with self-awareness and the regulation of breathing. Another key technique is the body posture called asana, which helps in developing coordination and balance to enhance concentration and improve motor skills.
Along with all the noted benefits of yoga, parents of children with ASD have reported that yoga and breathing exercises have helped in the following areas: deep relaxation, quality and quantity of sleep, self-regulation, physical strength, motor planning, muscle balance, and the ability to move from one activity to another.
5 Basic Yoga Poses For Helping Prevent Meltdowns
- Cat-Cow Pose
The combination of these two poses will provide relaxation and deep breathing as your child inhale and towards his or her ribcage like a cat and exhale down, allowing their belly to sink. This movement can help calm the body by releasing tension in the upper back and neck.
- Tree Pose
Begin by extending your child's arms away from his or her body while standing straight in a mountain pose. Slowly move the child's foot on his or her left thigh by gently bending their knees. Hold the position for a few seconds as they face towards the sky.
- Ragdoll Pose
This pose is a basic standing forward bend yoga that involves bringing your child's hands to their hips while breathing deeply and keeping their knees relaxed.
- Warrior Pose
With toes pointing to the top and foot parallel, bend your child's left knee into a lunge two to three feet apart. Now, let them raise their arms straight at shoulder-length for one minute and repeat on the other sides.
- Child's Pose + Bee Breath
To do this pose, the child will be having to sit on his or her knees with their forehead placed on the floor and arms stretched out behind them. You can make this pose even more calming and fun by incorporating bee breath by taking a deep breath and exhaling like a bee down to the floor pose.
The regular practice of yoga can significantly reduce feelings of anxiety and it can also provide an outlet for children to express their emotions and bring more awareness to social cues. This can also control one's activity level and directly impact their mood to reduce aggressive behaviors.
However, it is important to note that yoga poses and breathing exercises would work best with the use of games, visual representations, and other fun activities to motivate them. Another tip is to allow the child to choose his or her preferred poses and set a yoga schedule to give them a sense of involvement.