The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons with autism spectrum disorder. The ASP has been in the forefront of providing services and training to families living with autism.

03 June 2014

Yoga and Autism

This article appeared on 2 June 2014 in the print and on-line versions of Manila Bulletin's "Angels Talk", by Dang U. Koe, ASP Chair Emeritus.

The Autism Society Philippines has experienced meteoric growth over the last few years, with our reach spreading to many parts of the country. With the reach comes the happy discovery of many new and interesting ways families who live with autism relieve stress and find balance in their lives. ASP Sta. Rosa chapter president, Olive Medina, a certified yoga teacher by Rainbow Kids Yoga International and Yoga Vidya Gurukul is this week’s Angel Talker.

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STRETCHES FOR STRESS RELIEF — For children with autism like (from left) Airam Cinco, Kyle Gutierrez, Kyle’s neuro-typical sister Beatriz, and Noelle Cruz, yoga can provide many benefits.

As a mother of a child with autism, I was initially drawn to the practice of yoga for its stress-relieving benefits. Families who are living with someone on the spectrum would definitely understand that life can be at times challenging and stressful. I started the practice of yoga five years ago and my life was never the same. I became more relaxed, peaceful and accepting of things and people surrounding me. I realized that my son and other persons with autism very likely go through their share of anxiety and yoga can benefit them in the same way it helped me.

I introduced my son with autism, as well as his younger sister, to yoga a year ago; and the benefits have been pronounced.

Yoga naturally provides sensory integration, as it is done in a relaxed and non-competitive environment. One would only discern soothing music, massages, calming voice from the teacher and smooth mats. Less sensory stimulation makes persons with autism more relaxed and they are less likely to exhibit uncontrolled behavior.

Yoga can help persons with autism learn self-regulation. As they become more aware of their bodies and breathing, they begin to develop coping abilities when they feel agitated or upset.

Yoga develops physical strength and motor abilities. Persons with autism oftentimes have delayed motor development, which can be improved as yoga helps tone muscles, provide body awareness and coordination.

Yoga can improve social skills. Yoga for kids and those with autism are modified to include many opportunities for social interaction. There are games and partner poses where persons under the spectrum can develop and refine their social skills.

Yoga involves a lot of breathing exercises that calm the nervous system. When persons with autism feel comfortable with their body, their behavior generally improves.

Specific yoga poses can address specific body problems like gastro intestinal problems. A lot of people in the spectrum usually have problems with their digestion and yoga poses can help address this.

Members of the Autism Society Philippines from Sta. Rosa Laguna have begun to reap the benefits of yoga and have discovered a unique bonding activity for families.

“Yoga is very beneficial to our persons with autism,” Evangeline Cruz observes. “Noelle has been doing that every day in her school in NJ when she was seven to nine years old. It was a part of their physical therapy, it was not the usual yoga with meditation but it was focused on balance and teacher imitation with the different poses.”

Marie Faith Alvarez shares, “For our Caryll, it made her more relaxed and calm. Yoga helped her develop her motor skills, confidence and social skills. Yoga is best for family bonding.”

“We hope that we can continue with the yoga activity. We know that yoga can help Justin gain many benefits particularly in developing his motor skills and self-regulation,” said Vicky Erolin.

“My son Francis and I enjoyed the yoga activity conducted by ASP Sta. Rosa in our clubhouse,” declared Leah Pelegrina. ”He was allowed to run and move around. It’s playtime for us! The massage and quiet time session helped him relax.”

(ASP institutional member, Center for Autism and Related Disorders will hold the 3rd Good Autism Practice Conference: “Autism Across the Ages” on June 29. For inquiries, email goodautismpractice@gmail.com. Follow Autism Society Philippines on Facebook, Twitter and www.autismsocietyphils.org.com.)

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