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Spring Yoga for Children with Autism

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting up with Louise Goldberg of Creative Relaxation at the Kripalu Yoga in Schools Symposium twice now. For more than thirty years, Louise has been an expert on yoga for children with autism and special needs, introducing them to the benefits of yoga therapy. She has found that the yoga practice can help children with attention and sensory challenges:

  • To both calm and energize their bodies
  • Help them develop sensory and body awareness
  • Increase their self-regulation
  • Promote social interaction
  • Enhance speech, language, and motor development
  • Ease transitions
  • Help them learn to monitor their anxiety levels
  • Foster independence and enhance self-esteem

Louise integrates yoga postures, breathing techniques, and mindfulness exercises in her program, which can be found in her research-based comprehensive book, Yoga Therapy for Children with Autism and Special Needs (Amazon affiliate link).

Today, Louise is sharing five spring yoga poses that would be fun to practice with children with special needs, or for any child for that matter. These yoga poses can also be found in her S.T.O.P. and RELAX curriculum.

Spring Yoga for Children with Autism and Special Needs

Enjoy these five S.T.O.P. and Relax yoga poses for spring:

Huh breathing technique


1. Smelling Flowers
How to do “Huh” breathing technique:

Come to sitting comfortably cross-legged with your hands resting on your knees. On an inhale, take your shoulders up, pretending to smell flowers in the garden. Then, on an exhale, drop your shoulders and say, “Huh!” Repeat this inhale (shoulders up) followed by an exhale (shoulders down) a few times. When you’re ready, come to a neutral position.

 Twister Pose for Kids



2. Gentle Breeze
How to do the Twister Pose:

From a comfortable cross-legged position, start to gently swing your arms back and forth to create a gentle breeze. Pick up some speed and then slow down. Try those gentle swinging arms movements a few times (fast and then slow). When you’re ready, come to a neutral sitting position.

Rock the Baby Pose for children with autism You could also try a Rock the Baby Pose for a similar rocking-and-rotation exercise. Rocking and twisting poses trigger the calming centers of the brain.
 Butterfly Hands for Kids



3. Fluttering Butterflies
How to do Butterfly Hands:

From a comfortable cross-legged position, take your hands out in front of you and shake them. Let them fly high and low, side to side, and all around. When you are ready, stop and put your hands on your knees.

Bug On Its Back Pose for children with AutismYou could also do this same shaking-hands movement on your back, like a Bug on its Back. These techniques give children “permission” to shake everything out and allow them to release tension.
 Rocking Chair Pose


4. Swinging in the Garden
How to do the Rocking Chair Pose:

Come to sitting with your knees bent in front of you. Clasp your hands together beneath your knees and hug them to your chest. Lean back slowly and start to gently rock back and forth on your buttocks. Pretend to be swinging on a garden swing or rocking in a chair. This rocking movement provides deep flexion, which is also calming to the nervous system.

 Cloud Pose


5. Floating on a Cloud
How to do Cloud Pose (Resting Pose):

Come to lying on your back, with your arms and legs stretched out. Take a few deep breaths. If you are have difficulty lying on your back, you could also try Child’s Pose, if that’s more comfortable and soothing to curl up in a ball. Either way, pretend to be floating like a cloud in the bright blue sky.

To complete your yoga for children with autism or special needs session, try repeating the “Huh” breathing technique. Using a consistent beginning and ending pose can ease the transition in and out of the yoga practice.

Just a note on the yoga pose visuals above: You’ll notice that the visuals are in grayscale, androgynous, and very spare. Louise and her team tried photos of people and other types of drawings, but the children with sensory or attention challenges were distracted by the hair and clothes. This style of illustration provides a clear and uncluttered focal point for visual learners, while still offering a frame of reference for the posture with the small illustration related to the posture name. The numbers you see on the top right corner of the postures make it easier to follow suggested lesson plans within the S.T.O.P. and RELAX curriculum.


Yoga for Children with Autism and Special Needs | Kids Yoga Stories

About our Featured Author:

Louise Goldberg

S.T.O.P. and Relax: Your Special Needs Yoga Toolbox is a visual curriculum developed by Louise Goldberg, Debra Collins, Sally Miller, and Daniela Morales: a yoga therapist, a school psychologist, and two autism specialists. It is used internationally to support yoga education in schools, camps, centers, and at home.

Louise Goldberg is also the author of Yoga Therapy for Children with Autism and Special Needs and founder of Creative Relaxation. For more info: www.yogaforspecialneeds.com.

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