Yoga’s roots goes as far back as probably the Indus Valley Civilisation (BC 3000). Sage Patanjali summarised the wisdom of centuries in to 196 short verses called “Yoga Sutras”.
Yoga, although popularly symbolised by the body postures called asanas, has always been focused on “finding the inner you”. The whole purpose of the asanas is to still your mind so that you begin to see the real you.
Yoga has been put in to therapeutic context because of its profound effect on body and mind. There are a number of health conditions where Yoga has been used either as an alternative medicine or an excellent addition to other treatment modalities. The table below summarises some examples of these. It has to be said that although Yoga has been an excellent addition, its role is still being assessed for the extent of therapeutic benefit. Therefore people should not jump into yoga after abandoning other treatment expecting wonders from Yoga. Any benefits of Yoga emerges gradually over a period of time when it is practiced regularly under the supervision of a good teacher.
Yoga in Autism
The core features of autism currently has no treatment. The use of various treatments is for helping autistic people to adapt to their surrounding better and reducing additional problems such as increase in anxiety or problem behaviours. Yoga is not an exception to this.
That said, Yoga has been found to be effective in the following situations
- Improving the ability of children with autism to interact with others
- Improving eye contact and mirroring movements through regular practice of Yoga
- Improvement in body awareness, co-ordination and sensory integration
- Increased ability to self regulate
- Ability to sit for long periods of time
Teaching Yoga to autistic people
A Yoga teacher for children or adults with autism needs to take account of their ability level, sensory needs as well as other preferences. Knowing your students well is an important element of any teaching but most important in this context.
Some general tips as below (adapted from Teaching Yoga to people with autism)
- Take time to ensure that people are comfortable in the personal space that they have.
- Do not expect eye contact. They are listening even with out eye contact.
- Break down the sequences in to simple components.
- Teach each component by repetitive demonstration (Visual cues are important for autistic people)
- Be prepared to repeat sequences until students have understood these well.