Bethany attended her very first ever Yoga class for children with special needs three years ago.
She has always been anxious when presented with new experiences and anticipating her first yoga class proved to be no exception to that self imposed rule!
Knowing that she would also be meeting a new teacher compounded her anxiety.
When we arrived at her first class, she hesitated to join in with the rest of the kids even though she knew all of them and had been looking forward to seeing them again.
Malcolm and I accepted the invitation for parents to participate in the hopes that our doing so would entice Bethany to join in on the fun.
It worked and before long she was down on her mat doing her best to copy all the poses.
She concentrated very hard and was very serious about the whole process.
It’s always so cute and such a joy to see her enjoying herself!
The instructor was very sweet, calm, patient, and accommodating.
She also has a son who has autism and so understood our kids from the perspective of experience!
Ever since attending that first class, Bethany has thoroughly enjoyed participating in each eight week Yoga session with her friends at Flash Club.
But doing Yoga is not just fun!
It offers participants many emotional and physical benefits as well.
Some Benefits of Yoga for Children With Autism and other Special Needs
1) Yoga can help our special kids develop their motor skills because it tones muscles, enhances balance and stability, and develops body awareness and coordination.
2) Yoga can improve their confidence and refine social skills because the self-control and self-calming techniques of yoga can increase their confidence in interacting with other children. Learning to work together in a yoga class and playing with partner poses can also increase confidence within group settings.
3) Yoga provides sensory integration. Children with autism often suffer from a highly sensitive nervous system and are easily over stimulated by bright lights, new textures, loud noises, strong tastes and smells. Yoga’s natural setting of dim lights, soft music, smooth mats, and “inside” voices creates a comforting environment largely protected from unknown or aggressive stimuli in which calming down becomes enjoyable.
4) Yoga teaches coping skills. The physical poses allow nervous energy to be released from the body in a controlled manner, also leading to a calming sensation. Less stimulation means less uncontrollable behavior, outbursts and repetitive nervous movements
5) Yoga also facilitates self awareness. It helps children become more aware of their bodies and breathing.
6) Yoga engages their emotional brains. The combination of movement, music, breath work and story telling activates the brain’s emotional region.
7) Yoga is orderly and consistent something that many children with special needs thrive on!