My favourite aspect of teaching yoga to children on a spectrum is that planned lesson very often goes out of the window and instead turns into intuitive flow. Their physical capabilities, moods and motivations vary greatly. It is the ability to notice and follow the cues that determine the effectiveness of the class.
One of the first questions to ask is ‘Do they need high or low arousal poses?’ For example, recently I taught a class in a group setting, I had a set of postures in mind but after a third pose the whole class seemed uninterested sitting with their backs to me, their energy low. I wasn’t going to get any further. I switched to high arousal poses, we stood up and got the energy going with some whole body vigorous moves. The room came alive. From then on it was a spontaneous flow of poses dictated by their smiles and participation. It was them who showed me what they need and I only felt honoured to serve them in this unique situation.
Alex and a journey to his own body
Alex is autistic 12 year-old, with very limited range of movements, no spoken language who would spend most of his time on a sofa. Upon our first meeting I noticed constant upward gaze shifting from wall to wall. This told me that this is where his attention was, out there and not in his body. My aim then was to bring a sensation of his own body to him. I started with touch by pressing his hands, then shoulders and knees. When I moved my hand away he brought it back, he seemed to like it. I introduced rhythm, pause and anticipation to wake the brain. Introducing a pattern, for example three squeezes on one hand, repeating a few times and then stoping after a second squeeze creates a sense of something is missing. I was watching for signs. Yes, he responded, he sought me with his eyes when a third squeeze didn’t come. We carried on for a while, it was a meaningful exchange. I told him how nice it was to play, I celebrated. Celebration is one of the techniques used in The Son-Rise programme to encourage connection. Our eyes met on a few occasions and I genuinely felt warmth of togetherness in my body.