Autism Therapy: Yoga as a Spiritual Cure

Sept 26, 2017

The word "yoga" comes from the Sanskrit root yuj which means "to join" or "to yoke". Many people around the world think that yoga is a religion, in fact, it is a practical aid.

Yoga is an ancient art based on a consorting system of development for the body, mind, and spirit. The constant practice of yoga will command you to a sense of peace and prosperity.

In Sanskrit, Yoga means ‘unity’ or ‘linkage’ and it is used to signify any form of connection. Yoga is a combination of connection and a body of techniques that let us connects to anything. Conscious connection to something let us to feel and experience that thing, person, or experience. Yoga is a state of connection, a joyful and blissful, fulfilling experience. The secret of yoga is awareness.

Introduction to Shema Kolainu's Workshops by Rania Klibi -

Yoga and Autism, June 2017

In fact, there is no single definition of yoga. In order to experience truth through yoga, we must study its classical definitions and discover on our own understanding of it.

There are many traditional yogic paths that facilitate connection to the highest truth and awaken our own consciousness, including tantra, mantra, laya, kundalini, bhakti, jnana, karma yoga, etc... Each path specializes in its own techniques and methods to awaken greater awareness and connection to self and life. At its most practical level yoga is a process of becoming more aware of whom we are. Yoga techniques simplify balance and health, and unfold our stationary potential. Yoga permits us to be more aware of ourselves and feel connected.  As such, yoga is a process of self-discovery. This leads us to self-mastery and self-realization.

Introduction to Shema Kolainu's Workshops by Rania Klibi - Yoga and Autism, June 2017

Yoga is a science, that is, it is a body of techniques that forces us to consciously connect with ourselves and with life. Yoga as a science has no dogma or belief system attached to it. Yoga simply tells us to do a certain application and then to feel the effect of that application. If we breathe slowly in a relaxed manner we will slow our heart rate; if we focus the mind we will develop mental peace and deep perception. The definition of Yoga differs from each culture to another; Hatha yoga includes postures (asana), purification techniques (shat karmas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and energy regulation techniques (mudra and bandha). The definition of yoga in the Hatha Yoga texts is the union of the upward force (prana) and the downward force (apana) at the navel center (manipura chakra). Hatha yoga teaches us to master the totality of our life force, which is also called prana. By learning how to feel and manipulate the life force, we access the source of our being.

Introduction to Shema Kolainu's Workshops by Rania Klibi -

Yoga and Autism, June 2017

Kundalini yoga is the science of releasing the passive potential energy in the base of the spine (kundalini). The definition of yoga in kundalini yoga is the union of the mental current (ida) and the pranic current (pingala) in the third eye (ajna chakra) or at the base chakra (muladhara chakra). This unifies duality in us by connecting body and mind and plumbs to the awakening of spiritual consciousness.


According to the latest statistics, Yoga has grown in the U.S. as a complementary therapy for children with special needs and autism, with great numbers of schools and parents participating in developed programs which are popping up around the country. Dr. Deborah Gruber, Med, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA Lotus Behavioral Consulting mentions in our last workshop that in addition to benefits typically associated with yoga improved power and pliability, and a developing

sense of peace, children with autism also experience a reduction of pain, anxiety, aggression, obsessive behaviors, and self-stimulatory activities. And there's more good news. Children are also having greater success making new friends and regulating emotions.

Yoga develops motor skills so children with autism frequently face delayed motor development, which can be improved as yoga tones muscles, enhances balance and stability, and develops body awareness and coordination. As motor skills develop, children have a greater sense of their physical self in space and in relation to others, and can improve their demarche and constancy. Also, Yoga enhances confidence and social skills; poor coordination often assigns low self-esteem as kids may be singled out or teased for not moving or behaving like other children, or not shining in sports and outdoor activities. By learning self-control and self-calming techniques through yoga, they are likely to grow confidence in interacting with other children and refine their social skills. Learning to work together in a yoga class and playing with partner poses can also increase confidence within group settings.

In addition, Yoga provides multisensory integration. Children with autism often suffer from a highly delicate nervous system and are easily over stimulated by bright lights, loud noises, new textures, and strong tastes on smells. Yoga’s natural setting of soft music, smooth mats, and the smoothing voice of the yoga creates a soothing environment largely protected from unknown or offensive stimulus creating an idyllic comfortable atmosphere, yoga’s physical positions allow energy to be released from the body in a controlled manner, also leading to a calming sensation. Less stimulation means an alleviation of out of control behavior, outbursts and monotonous nervous movements.

Introduction to Shema Kolainu's Workshops by Rania Klibi -

Yoga and Autism, June 2017

Yoga also provides several coping techniques for both parents and children. Whether teaching the child breathing techniques for self-calming, talking the class. The child can use when getting nervous, or sharing learning cards of the day’s positions with parents to use at home, yoga provides an awesome toolbox to parents and siblings. It is a transportable practice that both parents and kids can take from for a lifetime and share activities at home.


Yoga eases self-awareness. Yoga is particularly instrumental in helping kids with autism learn self-regulation. By becoming aware of their bodies and aware of their breathing, yoga provides them with the ability to cope when they start to feel nervous or angry. Many 'Yoga for Autism' classes teach yoga positions or breathing techniques specifically intended to help children contend with their intense

feelings. Since these children are obviously guided, instructors add a visual element so that the child has a colored picture of each pose near his or her mat. Often, classes integrate other experiences known to benefit a child on the autism spectrum, such as music, massage, dance, and storytelling.


Yoga involves the emotional brain, and it is far from merely physical, and this combination of movement, music, breath work and storytelling activates the brain’s emotional region. It is all about spirituality, helping children develop awareness of their emotions and those of others, and maintaining their attentiveness in the class. Music is another powerful tool that the yoga teacher can share with parents to use at home to recreate the environment of a yoga class. 


Ideally, Yoga is orderly and consistent; the class typically scheduled at the same time and same day of the week, with the students’ baizes in the same plane, in the same room, with the same teachers. In my experience, there was one teacher per student, with the pairing the same week after week to transmit a sense of trust and stability. This factor of order is very important for a child and communicates steadiness; a factor much preferred to be sudden and thus uncontrollable. Students may also enjoy learning a yoga series that are performed in the same order at every class. The class should have an opening and closing groove or exercise that further supports the students’ need for order.