Unlike in the past when children with special needs had limited interactions with society and were confined to a world of their own, today there are a number of institutions with state-of-the-art facilities to help them. However, parents of special kids, who leave no stone unturned to ensure that their children are not left behind, are still facing many challenges.
Over the past few years, yoga has been getting wide acceptance as a therapy for kids with autism or autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Autism refers to a broad range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication. It is claimed that yoga can help kids cope with many of these conditions.
Integrated Approach to Autism
This method looks into the effect of postures, breathing, music, aromatherapy oils, and use of props such as bolsters and mirrors to help establish a greater sense of self control and focus, and to imbibe skills to deal with conditions that are stressful for children with autism.
As part of this, postures to help them calm down, self soothe and also to deal with excess energy are practised. The following postures help the child find balance and develop focus, but they need to be carried out systematically. Ideally, do the postures in front of a mirror so that they can develop a greater sense of self. Repeat the three postures three times, and on both sides if possible. Do try to teach them regulated breathing; it greatly helps them calm down. Once comfortable, encourage them to do various facial expressions looking at the mirror in the pose. Wind the session up with shavasana followed by short meditation. Use various textured cloth and materials during the practice so that they develop tactile sensitivity. Above all, keep the session fun and engaging, so it becomes a safe space that the children yearn for.
Stand on all your fours with the knees and palms on the floor. Ensure that knees are below the hip joint and palms are directly below the shoulder joints. Feet are slightly apart. Spine is held neutral. Once sufficient balanced is achieved here, work towards lifting a leg. Gradually lift the opposite hand. This pose helps build focus and balance.
Sit down in an easy crossed-legged position, keeping the spine tall, index finger and thumb touching to form the chin mudra for enhanced focus. Keep body aligned. Use a high quality lavender and chamomile or rosemary oil in the diffuser and let the aroma pervade the room. Use a guided meditation script for children to help them stay focused.
Down Dog Pose
Begin on your hand and knees like in the Cat Pose. Exhale and lift your knees off the floor. You may move your feet a few inches to the back for greater ease. Feet are kept a few inches apart. Attempt to bring your heels to the floor. Soften the shoulders, let the neck relax and head dangle down. Stay and breathe in this pose that looks like an inverted letter V.
Corpse Pose with Buzzing Breath
Lie down on your back —legs apart, arms slightly away from the body. Keep pelvis relaxed but pressing into the floor, shoulders spread out and pressing into the floor. Neck and head should be aligned and not tilted in anyways. Bend the arms. Take a deep inhalation. Place the thumbs on the ears to close them gently, index on the eye lids, middle fingers on the nostrils, last two fingers on the lips. As you breathe out, hum and create the sound of a bumble bee for as long as you can. Release the fingers to inhale comfortably. Repeat it five to 10 time
Stand tall, feet a few inches apart. Shift your body weight to the left leg. Bend the right knee, clasp the right ankle and place the right sole on your left inner thigh. Inhale and lift your arms up. With palms together lengthen the spine. Ensure that the right knee is in line with the hip and is not pushing forward. Stay and develop focus. Repeat the pose with the other leg.