Advocates say yoga is 'ideal' for people with autism

Posted: May 29, 2012 at 7:19 pm

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Emily Lane feels powerful when she stands in the warrior pose.

Her sometimes crippling anxiety -- over tests, classmate cliques and the overarching bubble of stress that looms in the classroom -- melts down her legs and sinks into the floor. It is replaced with a sense of calm and self-confidence, she says.

"I was expecting to have a class where everything was based around yoga and exercising," she says. "I didn't expect that it would be such a personal and deep experience."

Emily, 17, attends Silver Creek High School in Longmont. She has autism. And she takes 90-minute yoga classes every week to help her cope with social challenges that cause her anxiety.

The autism spectrum spans a variety of neurological disorders

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

"Yoga offers tangible, attention-building practices that help them learn to harness their mental and physical energy in helpful ways," says Abby Wills, program director with the Shanti Generation, which makes yoga DVDs specifically for youth.

Take the tree pose, she says. Kids can tune into their breathing, centers and foundation. They feel their feet firmly connected, their abs activated and their breath flowing, giving them a chance to feel in control -- "something they very much desire and often have a hard time accomplishing," Wills says.

On the social level, yoga promotes interaction with other participants and the teacher in a non-competitive, low-stress environment.

Some studies claim regular yoga classes improved imitation skills, non-verbal communication, reception to verbal commands and the comprehension of spatial commands ("Lift your right hand") among participants with autism. Other studies showed that it changed children's play patterns with toys and other children, and it led to increased eye contact.

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Advocates say yoga is 'ideal' for people with autism

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May 29th, 2012 at 7:19 pm

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