Have you ever wondered about trying Yoga to help your child? It is amazing to see yoga work its magic on children, particularly those with autism, and their families. Time and time again we come across the benefits of Yoga for children and here are just a few.
1. Yoga Develops Motor Skills
Many of our children with speech, language and communication difficulties also frequently experience delayed motor development. Motor skills can be improved through yoga as it helps tone muscles, develop balance, coordination and stability, and improves body awareness. As motor skills develop, children have a greater sense of their physical self in space and in relation to others, and can improve their gait and stability.
2. Yoga Improves Confidence & Social Skills
Poor coordination often yields low self-esteem as children may be singled out or teased for not moving or behaving like other children, or not excelling in sports and outdoor activities. By learning self-control and self-calming techniques through yoga, they are likely to grow confidence in interacting with other children and refine their social skills. 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. Yoga’s 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 – which is further enhanced by our next benefit…
4. Yoga Provides Coping Techniques to Both Children & Parents
Whether teaching the child breathing techniques for self-calming, talking the class through a guided visualisation the child can use when getting anxious, or sharing flashcards of the day’s poses with parents to use at home, yoga provides a fantastic toolbox to parents and siblings. It is a transportable practice that both parents and kids can draw from for a lifetime and share a meaningful home activity.
5. Yoga Facilitates Self-Awareness
Yoga for children is particularly instrumental in helping kids with autism learn self-regulation. By becoming aware of their bodies and aware of their breathing, yoga provides them with the ability to cope when they start to feel anxious or upset. Many ‘Yoga for Autism’ classes teach yoga or breathing techniques specifically intended to help children contend with their escalating emotions. Since these children are visually oriented, savvy instructors add a visual element so that the child has a colored picture of each pose near his or her mat. Often, classes incorporate other experiences known to benefit a child on the autism spectrum, such as massage, music, dance, rhymes and stories.
6. Yoga Engages the Emotional Brain
We all know that yoga is far from purely physical, and this combination of movement, music, breath work and story telling activates the brain’s emotional region. This encourages children to develop awareness of their emotions and those of others, as well as keeping their attention on the class. Music is another powerful tool that the yoga instructor can share with parents to use at home to recreate the environment of a yoga class.
7. Yoga is Orderly & Consistent
This element of order is very important for a child and communicates stability – a state much preferred to being unexpected and thus out of control. Students may also enjoy learning yoga sequences, such as modified sun salutations, that are performed in the same order at every class. The class should have an opening and closing routine or practice – singing, tuning in, etc. – that further supports the students’ need for order.
Why not give it a go?
If you want to help your child to have a go at yoga – there are lots of great free videos on YouTube! We love this one by ‘Cosmic Kids Yoga’ which guides you through different yoga poses which all begin with the letter S!
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If your child needs help with their speech, language or communication or you’re a school that would like to discuss how we could help by providing an SLT service – we’d love to here from you!
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