Yoga and Autism methods were developed by Dr. Mary Chang with the help of her son, Jamie to overcome the unique challenges experienced by individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), including individuals with Sensory Integration Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, High Functioning Autism, and Classic Autism. In addition to the benefits typically associated with yoga (e.g.improved strength, flexibility, and breathing), Yoga and Autism methods inspire the individual to control their emotions and impulses along with the following benefits:
• Increased ability to learn new skills
• Increased enjoyment of social interactions
• Increased healthy bodily function
• Decreased aggression, obsessive, and self-stimulatory behaviors
• Decreased non-compliance
• Decreased anxiety
Yoga and Autism methods encourage the individual to move out of the fight or flight response by teaching yoga practices, such as conscious breathing and spatial awareness, in ways that enable them to feel calm and comfortable. Individuals on the Autism Spectrum have different sensory experiences; they often react in a fight or flight response to normal daily events such as a change in routine or environment. The fight or flight response was first described in the 1920s by American physiologist Walter Cannon (http://www.harvardhealthcontent.com/HealthyLifestyle/70,SC0211?Page=Section1). Cannon realized that a chain of rapidly occurring reactions inside the body help mobilize the body’s resources to deal with threatening circumstances. It is important to note that the response can be triggered by perceived threat, both real or imaginary and results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. The individual can display behaviors such as anxiety, non-compliance, aggression, obsessive or self-stimulatory behaviors as a way to manage the physiological chaos going on. After the perceived threat is gone, it takes between 20 to 60 minutes for the body to return to its pre-arousal levels. Once the body is no longer in the fight or flight response, blood returns to the respiratory organs and breathing can return to levels in which pure air can satisfy the body’s requirement for oxygen.
Yoga and Autism methods employ the practice of deeper inhaling and exhaling to calm the nervous system through pranayama, a type of yogic breath awareness and regulation designed to help control one’s energy. The practice of asanas, the poses/postures in a yoga exercise, build core strength which supports respiration to create a healthy body. When an individual feels calm and comfortable in their body, they can control their emotions/impulses, learn new skills, and enjoy social interactions.
Yoga and Autism methods are designed in ways that deepen spiritual awareness in a non-denominational approach. Many of us who have the privilege to live and work with individuals on the Autism Spectrum recognize that they have spiritual gifts. Yoga and Autism is an opportunity for them to explore their spirituality in a personal context.
Please follow this link to an article on the benefits of Yoga for individuals on the Autism Spectrum and their caregivers: