Yoga for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

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A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents and Caregivers Dion E. Betts and Stacey W. Betts

Forewords by Louise Goldberg and Joshua S. Betts

Jessica Kingsley Publishers London and Philadelphia

First published in 2006 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers 116 Pentonville Road London N1 9JB, UK and

400 Market Street, Suite 400 Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA

Copyright © Dion E. Betts and Stacey W. Betts 2006 Foreword copyright © Louise Goldberg 2006 Foreword copyright © Joshua S. Betts 2006 Photographs copyright © Dion E. Betts and Stacey W. Betts 2006

The right of Dion E. Betts and Stacey W. Betts to be identified as authors of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form (including photocopying or storing it in any medium by electronic means and whether or not transiently or incidentally to some other use of this publication) without the written permission of the copyright owner except in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 or under the terms of a licence issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London, England W1T 4LP. Applications for the copyright owner's written permission to reproduce any part of this publication should be addressed to the publisher.

Warning: The doing of an unauthorised act in relation to a copyright work may result in both a civil claim for damages and criminal prosecution.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Yoga for children with autism spectrum disorders: a step-by-step guide for parents and caregivers / Dion E. Betts and Stacey W. Betts ; forewords by Louise Goldberg and Joshua S. Betts. p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references. ISBN-13: 978-1-84310-817-7 (pbk.) ISBN-10: 1-84310-817-8 (pbk.)

1. Hatha yoga for children--Therapeutic use. 2. Autistic children—Health and hygiene. 3. Autistic children--Rehabilitation. I. Betts, Stacey W. (Stacey Waldman), 1964- II. Title. RJ133.7.B48 2006 613.7'046083--dc22


British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN-13: 978 1 84310 817 7 ISBN-10: 1 84310 817 8 ISBN pdf eBook: 1 84642 498 4

Printed and bound in Great Britain by Athenaeum Press, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear

This book is dedicated to Josh, Jake, Dan, Dora, and Sarah. Each day with you is a treasure.


Preface 9

A note on this book 11

Foreword by Louise Goldberg 13

Foreword by Joshua S. Betts 15

Introduction 17

1: How to Use this Guide 21

Sequence of yoga poses 21

Modifications of poses and sessions 22

Demonstrate poses to your child 23

Ensure that your child is comfortable 23

A note on breathing 24 Motivating children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to practice yoga 25

2: The Yoga Sequence for Children with Autism

Spectrum Disorders 27

Warm-up poses 27

Sitting Pose 27

Cat Pose 30

Shoulder Opener Pose 32

Neck Rolls 36

Mountain Pose 39

Spinal Rolls 41

Chair Pose 43

Strengthening poses 45

Triangle Pose 45

Side Angle Pose 48

Downward Dog Pose 51

Warrior I Pose 54

Warrior II Pose 55

Standing Forward Bend Pose (A and B) 58

Tree Pose 60

Release of tension poses 63

Sphinx Pose 63

Boat Pose 65

Bridge Pose 68

Calming poses 69

Stick Pose 70

Seated Forward Bend Pose 71

Spread Leg Forward Bend Pose 74

Head-to-Knee Pose 77

Butterfly Pose 79

Reclining Butterfly Pose 82

Seated Spinal Twist Pose 84

Easy Spinal Twist Pose 85

Child's Pose 86

Corpse Pose 89

3: Yogic Breathing 91

Ujjayi Breathing 91

Skull Shining Breath 92

Curled Tongue Breath 93

Lion Breath 94

Alternate Nostril Breathing 96

4: Shorter Yoga Sequences 99

Short sequence 1 99

Short sequence 2 100

References 101


We have had very profound experiences with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Like many parents and caregivers, we continue to search for ways of helping these children lead happy and productive lives. At the time of writing no cure for any of the Autism Spectrum Disorders has been found. In fact, no one knows for certain the cause or causes of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Drawing on our own experiences and work with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders revealed to us that the practice of yoga can have a significant impact on the symptoms of these disorders. Why yoga?

Stacey has been practicing yoga for about ten years. From the time she was an adolescent, Stacey has been interested in ways to make her body stronger and healthier. By the time she was about twenty-seven years old, she had grown tired of typical exercise regimens that included endless repetitions including lifting weights, long aerobic classes, and expensive gyms.

Stacey discovered yoga by experimenting with a beginner yoga video. She was working as an attorney and had two small children at that time. From her first yoga session, she liked the feelings of physical strength and mental wellbeing that yoga provided. During her third pregnancy, yoga helped her to feel grounded and relaxed. Stacey expanded her practice to include more breathing techniques and intermediate poses.

Midway through her third pregnancy, our oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Although the diagnosis did not come as a complete surprise, we experienced many emotions and uncertainties associated with discovering and eventually accepting that our child had a lifelong disability. Yoga helped Stacey to maintain her physical health and sense of wellbeing during that time.

As our son got older, we thought that practicing yoga could help him deal with his symptoms in a way that would not require medication, have no side effects, and be simple for him to use. Many of the yoga poses and breathing practices give individuals a sense of calm, strength, and clarity. We believed that the poses and the yogic breathing exercises could provide our son with the same benefits.

We found that yoga helps children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to reduce stress and anxiety, and increase balance and strength. We found this to be true for our son and other children with Autism Spectrum Disorders as well. This guide provides a simple approach for any parent or caregiver to use to help their children by using yoga. We believe that by using this guide, parents and care-givers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders can help their children use yoga poses and breathing methods to lessen some of the symptoms that the children experience. No experience in yoga is needed to begin a yoga practice. It is suggested that after reviewing this guide, the reader investigate other yoga resources. A great many excellent books, videos, and other materials can help develop a deeper knowledge of yogic philosophy and practice.

A note on this book

As with any program that requires physical activity, it is advised that individuals consult a physician prior to following the program in this guide.

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Yoga for You

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