This article is for friends and colleagues who work with kids with autism and special needs.
For those of us who work with families in crisis, much of what I find promoted in Yoga Journal bears little connection to the world I operate in with my clients, the parents and their children dealing with autism. About five percent of the articles give me food for thought, particularly those about anatomy and philosophy, or personal narratives of life experiences. The rest of the articles seem to be marketing for a yoga lifestyle of luxury, that requires spending gobs of money in search of something. This is reinforced by most of the advertisers.
What I like about yoga is that it is a leisure time activity that can be done with little or no special equipment (though a sticky mat, blocks, a sturdy chair and some cushions and blankets come in handy for yoga therapy, but are optional if you find yourself without and have to pull a MacGyver). This goes even for most of my special needs clients. Yoga can be done in bed, a chair, a wheelchair, etc.
My yoga teacher/therapist colleagues are a sincere and dedicated lot, and many of them deal with other serious medical and physical conditions, with their clients, students and themselves: topics shared and discussed among us in online forums include cancer, arthritis, Parkinson’s, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia and conditions I have never heard of before.
Everyone once in a while I find a “gimme” that makes me laugh. This just landed in my mailbag from a yoga teacher colleague on a professional mailing list.
Hi All,Below is part of an email from a friend. She describes what she is looking for in a retreat for herself below. If you have any recommendations, she lives in Massachusetts, I’ll be sure to pass along.Many thanks,JaiBegin forwarded message:
I have looked into everything from Kripula to Canyon Ranch and have not come up with the perfect experience. I would call it a “mind/body/spirit detox”. I would like some great yoga and fitness work, some energy and spiritual healing (although I don’t feel like I need to be healed as much as just nudged along) , some form of a detox (fasting or juicing?) or just great healthy eating, and some good old pampering (massage etc). I would like to go for 3-5 days.
This just struck my funny bone and makes me want to tease a little. I know I shouldn’t make fun. It is not very yogic.
She has quite a specific shopping list. Wondering what was missing for her at Kripalu and Canyon Ranch?
What will satisfy her?
This would be my advice to my colleague (if I wanted to piss off a lot of nice, sincere people in the forum). Please take the following in the spirit of a little yogic funning.
This woman’s journey to find the “perfect” experience that takes place in 3-5 days at a retreat center, may help her reflect on her attachments and desires, namely her need for such a “perfect” experience.
With proper application of the Law of Attraction, she may indeed find the perfect thing. It has been known to happen.
Otherwise, she may find that she can be perfect where she is and experience the feeling she is looking for, without having to go on retreat to be nudged, pampered and detoxed.
End of joshing. I truly wish her well! I am a fan of retreats and appreciate the benefits. I know she will find the experience that will be right for her spiritual growth at this time. Change comes from within.
So I will have to explain why this sets me off a little.
OK. I don’t want to judge her. Frankly, she tells us nothing about herself, so for all I know, she is dealing with breast cancer, a divorce, a death in the family. She may even be a caregiver of someone with autism.
I am not going to judge her need for love and pampering. We all desire love and support to help us find the space to do our inner work.
But, hey, I’m human, so I will be a little judgmental for a moment. The beef I have is with her wanting it all to arrive in a neat little package at her convenience. This kind of work takes time.
If only I could cure the needs of one of my little cases by bundling them off for five days at a retreat spa.
When I encounter this consumerist attitude toward yoga, I think about my little friends who couldn’t even comprehend the services she plans to receive. In fact, detox is sometimes the rule in their early lives, as their parents struggle to find any kind of diet cure, supplement, prescription, experimental drug, toxin removal method, etc. along with behavioral, speech and occupational therapies of all kinds. Some parents and families are on 24 hour duty, dealing with night tantrums, or in the medically frail, emptying colostomy bags, refilling nutrition packs, and so on.
I think of yoga as an antidote to all the remedies and therapies these kids are engaged in from awaking until bedtime.
My wife went to Ghana with an NGO to deliver staff training for an autism center in Accra. She met a pediatrician there. In a country of 22 million, there are only two pediatricians who can diagnose autism. The doctor noted that it is worse than giving a child diagnosis of death from a disease of the tropics or poverty such as malaria, dysentery or cholera. Autism is a life sentence for the parents.
This is a dose of reality.
So I am tempted to chide this woman who wants a perfect spa retreat. I don’t begrudge her for wanting to take care of herself. But “perfect”! Perfect?As they say on the sketch on Saturday Night Live, “Really?”
I think she would gain much more from a “good-enough” spa retreat.
For her own good, she is putting to much pressure on herself to find something perfect, experience something perfect.
On web discussion groups, I frequently come across parents of kids with special needs complaining about people whining about their problems, problems that can never compare to the challenges these parents, and their kids, face ever day.
I look forward to hearing from you. Any comments?