I recently taught Yoga to a group of 6 kids at a school for kids with special needs. This was a once a week ‘extra curricular activity’ over the course of a full term. The group had 3 girls and 3 boys, all of them on Autism Spectrum. Some of the mothers attended the class as well, helping the kids follow instructions and practice āsana (postures).
I thoroughly enjoyed teaching the kids and I would look forward to it every week. It was great fun. Kids learnt to chant ‘OM’ and learnt to chant it along with metronomes.
Chanting is an easier way to help kids and adults in Autism Spectrum breathe deeper. Deeper, slower breathing helps in focussing and has a calming influence. More on this here. We started with basic set of postures (āsana) that mainly focussed on spinal mobilisation and gradually added more postures that challenged balance and strength. It was fascinating to see some kids who struggled to just stand in trikonāsana (Triangle posture) in the beginning were able to do one legged balancing (tree pose or vṛksāsana).
The important part of this post starts here! The oldest kid (S) is a quiet, reserved young man. He never spoke a word during any of the classes. He would also keep his gaze low most of the time, avoiding eye contact. In the beginning I had to help him physically to help him get into Yoga postures and do it along with him. For example, in trikonāsana, I would stand by his side and hold him so he is supported. After about 5 classes he was able stay in trikonāsana without assistance.
I was at the Christmas party organised by the school yesterday. S walks up to me, looks me in the eye and, with a broad smile, declares, “I want to do Yoga!”. He was genuinely happy. I spent the rest of the evening in amazement. I learnt that he wants to be a writer when he grows up. I am pretty sure he would be an amazing writer (like this person) and wish him well.
As I am writing this down, those words S spoke to me makes me smile with a sense of joy that is deep and in a sort of contented way. Hard to describe it. I shall follow Wittgenstein’s advice and keep quiet!