Andrew Benisek is proof that the ancient practice of yoga touches all souls.
This 9-year-old autistic boy from DeKalb, Ill., literally stumbled upon yoga one day while rooting through his mother’s collection of yoga VHS tapes.
He pushed play on Patricia Walden’s original bestseller, Yoga for Beginners, and was hooked. Today Andrew, officially diagnosed with pervasive developmental delay on the autism spectrum, owns dozens of yoga and meditation DVDs. Another perennial favorite is Rodney Yee’s AM/PM Yoga.
“The yogis speak very slowly and calmly and he likes that,” says Andrew’s mother, Nuala. “He doesn’t lay down in savasana, but he watches [the DVD] or is doing something else and has it on in the background.”
Andrew does participate more actively when he feels like it. “I do sitting poses and meditation,” he says. His favorite move? Proud warrior pose. Quite remarkably, Andrew even defines the word meditation as “mind, body and spirit.”
Experts suggest that yoga’s soothing nature may appeal to autistic and other developmentally disabled children whose sensory systems are in effect “overloaded.” The practice’s peaceful atmosphere — dim lights, quiet music and slow movements — can provide a welcome respite.
Inverted movements such as child’s pose, downward dog and triangle work the vestibular system, which helps with balance and special orientation — areas that are especially important for autistic children, says Britt Collins, a Salem, Oregon-based occupational therapist. Collins partnered with famed Survivor winner and yoga instructor Aras Baskauskas on the Yoga for Children with Special Needs DVD.[FULL ARTICLE]