Yoga for Autism (ASD) and Special Needs

We are able to offer both small group and one to one sessions for children and adults with learning disabilities. We offer both one-off sessions as well as block bookings, i.e. weekly, biweekly, monthly sessions over a number of weeks/months.

 

Each session is tailored to the needs of the individual participants on an ongoing basis. All lessons are prepared in advance, though they may be modified in real time according to the needs of the participants at that moment in time. Teaching methods include simplified verbal cues, demonstrations, mirroring and gentle physical adjustment, but only where appropriate (i.e. trust has been established, the individual is comfortable with touch and where consent can be freely given). Quite often we find that carers are better placed to provide physical adjustment on the instruction of the yoga teacher.

 

We are able to travel to your premises, so that you are able to host the classes in a familiar environment. We can provide up to 10 yoga mats, however, for block bookings we may ask you to store the yoga mats at your premises for the duration of the course.

 

Our hourly sessional rate is £40. We do not charge extra per participant. We do recommend, however, that you take a realistic look at the needs of potential participants when assessing how many participants to include in a group class. All group participants are given individual attention and support. Naturally, the more attention the individual participants need, the fewer can be properly accommodated in any given session.

 

 

We recommend a maximum session length of 30-60 mins depending on the age and abilities of the participants. The full hourly sessional rate applies to classes shorter than 60 mins, however, we are happy to provide two or more back to back classes.

  • A suitable space for the yoga class to take place.

 

  • Support workers/carers should be on hand both from a safeguarding point of view and to provide support, if required.

 

  • Yoga mats for each participant. We may be able to provide mats, depending on availability.

 

  • Yoga blocks for every participant are desirable, but not essential. (Blocks can be substituted with cushions, bolsters or other support, as necessary.)

 

  • Individual blankets for every participant are desirable, but not essential.

 

  • The teacher will bring all other materials and equipment, such as Tibetan Bells/other instruments and sensory resources.

 

We offer yoga for autism, a sensory yoga method designed to enhance the lives of those with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) symptoms. The method was developed by combining modern scientific understanding of movement, the brain and neuro-sensory systems, with the traditional practice of yoga including postures, proper breathing, relaxation, body awareness and calming use of sound.

 

 

An example of a typical class would be:

 

  • Circle time – a chance for the group to connect as a whole

 

  • Preparatory exercises – a series of warm up exercises for the brain and rest of the body

 

  • Body awareness – bringing attention to different parts of the body

 

  • Postures – traditional yoga postures and specially adapted postures

 

  • Breathing – focus on proper breathing techniques

 

  • Relaxation – guided relaxation

In any yoga class, teachers will use a range of methods, such as verbal cues, demonstration, modelling, mirroring, and physical adjustments, where appropriate. In a yoga for autism class, verbal cues are simplified, reduced in number and frequency and made more literal. For example instead of saying “turn your head left”, we might say “look at the door”. We try to stick to the “rule of five” to keep verbal cues short and simple.

 

Teachers will using modelling and demonstrations, while emphasising that everyone has a different body and will therefore look different in a pose. Mirroring is frequently used in one to one contexts and can also be used with whole groups. Gentle physical adjustments are used, where appropriate. When using physical adjustments we make sure that:

 

  • we take advice from the organisation we are working with regarding whether physical adjustment is needed and expected,

 

  • we allow the student to fully guide whether they want physical support or not,

 

  • we immediately stop if the student changes their mind or doesn’t seem to like the adjustment,

 

  • we explain what we are doing,

 

  • the touch is firm, but gentle,

 

  • the touch is to the outside of the body such as shoulders, arms, legs, feet, hands and possibly the back or head, if appropriate

 

 

When doing body awareness practice, instead of asking students to focus on feeling their feet, we might ask the students to tap their feet with their hands. Guided relaxation tends to be shorter than in traditional classes and if students are uncomfortable closing eyes and/or lying down we can use other methods such as focusing on a point on the wall. We might use pictures of people/stick people in postures, to give the student a sense of what they might look like in a pose, or put these pictures together to create a visual timetable to give the students an idea of the sequencing of the class.

 

 

Many individuals with special needs may lack a sense of balance, coordination or awareness of their surrounding environment and may have limited fine and gross motor skills and varying degrees of strength as well as flexibility. The teacher will therefore assess the needs of each individual on an ongoing basis and make adaptations or modifications, as appropriate. Usually, we start with simpler postures and build up to more challenging movements once progress has been made.

Some of the known benefits include:

 

  • Increased ability to regulate anxiety and other emotions

 

  • Heightened confidence and self-esteem

 

  • Enhanced muscle tone, strength and flexibility

 

  • Improved balance and coordination

 

  • Improved focus and concentration

 

  • Improved neuro-sensory integration and coordination

 

  • Improved ability to self-regulate

 

  • Improved motor planning

 

  • Reduction of obsessive and self-stimulatory behaviours

 

  • Integration of retained reflexes

Both children and adults on the spectrum and those with other learning disabilities have experienced benefits from this form of yoga.

Danielle Texeira has been a certified yoga teacher since 2006. In 2016, she qualified in teaching Yoga for Autism and Reflex Yoga with Yo’tism, a training school specialising in yoga for the ASD community. This neuro-sensory method is a therapeutic intervention adapted from traditional yoga.  The method includes reflex yoga, which focuses on integrating retained reflexes, a common characteristic of individuals with ASD.

 

Danielle teaches all of our yoga for autism classes.

We teach yoga for autism and special needs classes within the city of Leicester.

We have been teaching at Nether Hall School since September 2018. In the past, we taught a community yoga course at the Agnes Unit and a 6-week course for Menphys.

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