Yoga as a Strategy for Improving Behavior?

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There are many strategies used for improving behavior in children with autism and special needs; including visual aides to foster communication and understanding, sensory activities to support sensory needs and token/reward systems to increase desired behaviors and decrease undesired behaviors. These strategies, if implemented consistently can be highly effective. Teaching yoga, physical poses, breathing and visualization can also be an effective way to improve behavior of children with special needs in the home and school setting.

How does the practice of yoga improve behavior?

The physical postures (asanas) support sensory regulation, which directly affects emotional and behavioral regulation. The poses along with breathing help children develop focus, concentration and in many cases impulse control.

Breathing strategies (pranayama), support children in calming their nervous systems, releasing tension and stress in the body as well as releasing difficult or uncomfortable emotions.

Visualization strategies support children in developing meditation skills, increasing imagination, focus, concentration and even language and vocabulary skills. Visualization and guided imagery increases the relaxation response and soothes the nervous system.

A study about Yoga and Improving Behavior was recently published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy. The results of the study showed improvement of behaviors in the children with autism who practiced yoga consistently over a 16 week period.

When children are calmer and have coping skills to manage difficult emotions such as anger, frustration and anxiety they are more likely to exhibit less behaviors. Implementing yoga in the home and school setting as a behavior management strategy can be tremendously effective in creating a calmer, more peaceful environment as well as calmer, more peaceful children. Why wouldn’t we want to make this a part of our children’s experience and lives?

Strategies on implementing yoga in the home and school environment in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

Asanas for Autism and Special Needs website

My Body and Me

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karla shark

Through my many years working with children with autism and special needs, I have noticed the profound disconnect many of them have with their own bodies, from having difficulty recognizing and identifying their own body parts to struggling with being aware of where their bodies are in space and how their bodies feel. Many factors can affect a child’s body awareness and connection to their body. Difficulty with language and vocabulary, memory and sensory regulation all play a part in body awareness. Children who experience sensory processing difficulties in particular, struggle with body awareness and sensory regulation. Our brain and the functioning of our brain plays a key role in sensory regulation and body awareness. Various areas of our brain process sensory information and sensory input. Sensory processing involves processing external information (the environment) as well as internal information (what’s happening in our bodies). The brain processes information through the 5 senses (smell, taste, touch sight and sound) as well as the 2 “invisible” senses, vestibular and proprioceptive. Children who have sensory processing difficulties are wired differently in their brains. Their brains often misfire and are unable to process or integrate sensory information correctly. They may be extremely sensitive to senses and internal or external stimuli. This over-stimulation can cause anxiety and cause the child’s nervous system to be in a constant state of overdrive and tension. This can affect the child’s mood, behavior, social relationships and participation in daily activities. Lack of vestibular and proprioceptive processing can cause the child to have difficulty connecting to their bodies, how fast they are going, where they are in space, balance and coordination. The practice of yoga supports children with sensory processing difficulties and limited body awareness by calming the nervous system, supporting the brain in processing sensory information more effectively, strengthening balance and coordination and teaching vocabulary connected to body parts. Turning their bodies into animals and shapes teaches children body parts and body awareness in fun and motivating ways and encourages language development at the same time! Here’s to getting our kids to be more connected, balanced and aware of their bodies!

a littleĀ information on sensory processing…

Sensory Processing and Sensory Processing Deficits