Mental Health

Therapeutic Thursday: Yoga therapy for Autism

Yoga is the key to psychological and emotional healing as well as resolving issues with self-confidence, relationships, family of origin issues, and more. ~ Ashley Turner

We’ve all heard of yoga as a form of spiritual practice and as a form of exercise, but, how can it be considered a form of therapy?

According to yoga teacher and licensed psychotherapist, Ashley Turner,  “Yoga is a psychology — the whole practice helps us work with the nature of the mind, the nature of being a human, how emotions live in our bodies, how they affect our behavior and our minds.”

What does this have to do with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

According to Lynda Geller, Ph.D., in her paper, Emotional Regulation and Autism Spectrum Disorders, “Emotions are often thought to be only feeling states, but they are much more than that. Emotions also include physiological responses and expressions. They play a critical role in regulating important processes including memory, perception, attention, and physical response.”

As you know, if you’ve been reading along, my little girl, who experiences the world through ASD, has been having a lot of trouble with her emotional regulation. She’s been getting violently out of control in her classroom and at home. That sounds really bad, however, it hasn’t caused major injuries . . . other than those internal injuries of hurt feelings and confusion on the part of her classmates and adding to my fears and concerns about her future.

The screaming, throwing, hitting, kicking, and so on are all about her inability to handle big feelings and how those big feelings have to come out in physical action.

I’ve been there. Haven’t you?

One of the things that has been able to help her, at times, is to remind her to take deep breaths. If I remember correctly, regulated breathing is key to yoga practice.

Another thing that has been able to help is to have her do some, safe, physical activity. When our emotions get riled up, we get all kinds of neurochemicals shooting through our bodies, filling our nervous system with adrenaline in preparation to fight or run away . . . which are the very things she does.

The children’s mental health organization where her mental health therapist works, used to have a yoga class for kids. However, not enough kids kept showing up and she never really got a chance to settle in and start doing the work.

I’m sure that yoga would be good for me, too. However, whenever I’ve tried yoga in the past, I was too self-conscious and completely uncomfortable with my physical inability to perform the poses correctly.

Self-doubt and perfectionism, for me, are based in a need for approval and rooted in low self-esteem. These thing are deeply embedded in my psyche and were put there through my life experiences with the family I grew up with. I’m doing my best not to pass that on to her.

I think I’ll go look for a parent-child yoga class.

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