Create a ritual that signals the yoga activity.The purpose of yoga is to calm the distractions of the mind. It is not yoga unless there is intention and ease–no forcing or straining.
Intention can be thought of as dedicating the yoga practice session to bring oneself wellness and well-being. A good default intention is “to give myself permission to be present in each moment, letting go of any attachment to past experience or future expectations.” (See my post on intention setting.)
If your child can not verbally communicate their comfort level, look for visual signs of strain or discomfort, and encourage the child to “back off” from the intensity of the pose. If I can’t see the child’s face, I work in front of a mirror so I can see.
Here are some things that you can do today to help a child with autism spectrum disorders prepare for a yoga session.
- Have the child change into an outfit that is only worn for yoga.
- Set the mood in the session room or classroom with colors, music and lighting if possible. Be careful not to create a distraction, particularly with music. I stay away from incense and candles, as well, though a battery operated votive may help create a meditative mood. If the child is obsessed with any object, you can withhold it as a reinforcer for completing tasks.
- Stick to a routine for greeting, beginning, closing, and departure, using consistent language.
- Include the child in yoga preparations, getting their yoga mat, unrolling it at the beginning, then rolling up and putting away the mat at the end.