Parenting Autism – Yoga
Are you struggling to keep up with your autistic child? Do you find yourself suffering from a sore back after a long day of chasing your autistic toddler or teenager around the house? If you have an autistic child, then you’re likely nodding your head right now. Possibly, with an ice pack on your knee. Many of us parents find that raising our autistic child takes its toll on our aging bodies. You may be surprised to learn that there’s a simple way to reduce the tiring effects of parenting autism – Yoga!
The internet provides endless suggestions for how to parent a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Anyone that has experience on the topic knows that dealing with an autistic child is both a mental, and physical test for many parents. The aggression and tantrums alone can weigh heavily on a parent’s emotions and patience, and possibly lead to depression. For those situations where the autistic child is hitting their parents and literally wrestling their way through tantrums, there is a need to address the negative effects this has on the human body over the years.
What I would like to focus on here is maintaining the physical ability to handle the aggression brought on by autism. Primarily the teen years of puberty, frustration, and increased aggression. This is a two fold problem- Not only is the child dealing with hormones, growth spurts, and increased strength; the parent is taking the ride right along with them- in the opposite direction. Basically, the child is hitting their physical prime, and the parent is falling apart day by day. This is a reality that must be addressed.
Multiple Benefits of Yoga : The Body and the Mind
Yoga is a great tool for living life with autism. Not only will it help to keep your muscles limber, and therefore, reduce strains and injuries, yoga also reduces the stress of parenting an autistic child.
Physical Benefits of Yoga Exercises
- Increased flexibility – Muscles are more elastic and therefore you experience fewer strains and sprains.
- Increased muscle strength and tone – Your body becomes stronger which greatly improves a parent’s ability to keep themselves and their child safe during tantrums.
- Improved energy – This is the gem that makes it all worth it; get through the day without needing a nap, or hitting that mid-day crash.
- Weight reduction – Everyone loves this one!
- Cardio and circulatory health – Parents to autistic children need strong hearts to keep going through the years.
- Improved athletic performance – Soccer moms, could actually play soccer!!
- Protection from injury – Last but not least- this is where it all comes together. There’s a reason athletes use yoga as part of their training regime. It’s quite simple! Logically, if getting hit by a professional football player hurts less by doing some yoga; imagine what it can do for a parent with an autistic child…
Mental Benefits of Yoga Exercises
- Stress & Anxiety – Yoga exercises focus on calm, soothing, and fluid movements. The focus required to complete the exercises lets your mind focus on something productive and self invested.
- Sleep Disorders – Yoga exercises are centered around breathing and relaxation methods, which can be used at bedtime to control late night anxiety.
- Traumatic Experiences – Many parents find the diagnosis of their child’s autism to be quite traumatizing. Evidence suggests that people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) see improvements when incorporating yoga into their current treatment.
- Depression – Once you reduce your stress, anxiety, and kick your sleep disorder to the curb- it’s a lot easier to fight depression.
- Increased Focus – By nature, yoga requires a great deal of focus and patience when learning the different yoga poses. In the process of learning the workouts, you’re also teaching yourself to slow down- take a breath- and focus!
- Improves Mood – Much like the impact yoga has on depression, there is a lot to be gained in regard to your mood as a parent to an autistic child. The yoga routines train your body, and mind, to remain flexible and productive. You’ll find the first few days of muscle soreness is well worth the long term benefits of feeling younger, faster, and stronger! It’s hard not to be in a good mood at that point.
Those are a lot of benefits for doing about ten minutes of stretching each day.
Find The Routine In The Madness
You definitely want to find a routine that works for you. This doesn’t need to be too involved of a process. For instance, there isn’t much to buy, if anything at all. Most of the yoga exercises and routines can be performed on your feet, and come with visual aids. Yoga doesn’t require special shoes, or weights, or even a large area of space.
If you have hardwood floors, you may want a yoga mat for floor exercises. I manage to get through a quick routine each morning on some carpeted flooring in my home, but that may not be an option for you. As for the tights, sweatbands, and pony tails … I wouldn’t lead anyone down that path-
I’m gonna make this clear:
If you find yourself in pink tights, a sweat band, and listening to the sound of waterfalls … that’s on you- not me 🙂
As mentioned above, you need a routine so you don’t find yourself aimlessly doing half of a yoga routine, in twice the time. Parents to autistic children aren’t exactly sorting through all of their free time, so this needs to be a relatively quick and relaxing experience.
The best place to start is with a good old fashioned book. The literature is out there, and relatively cheap. There’s no shakes to buy, or meals to have mailed to your house. In my experience I have found that each of the books listed below have some unique value to them. The only factor that gets these books into this particular list is that they are effective, time efficient, and low cost.
(Click the photos below for more information on each title)
Parents who find themselves raising an autistic child have so much on their plate that it quickly becomes too much to sort out. One of the first responsibilities that gets neglected is keeping up with the parent’s personal health. So much focus goes into keeping up with the autistic child that the parents are too beat at the end of the day to think about their own well being.
The suggestion to take 10 minutes out of your day, to do something like yoga, comes from a person who has a low functioning 14 year old autistic child, as a single parent with full custody. I say that so you can fully appreciate how positive of an impact yoga has had on my life. It’s worth the time, it’s worth the routine, and once you get used to doing it- you’ll be thankful you started.
Every part of life gets easier when you take 10 minutes each day to train you mind to focus, and strengthen your body to endure the day.