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How can yoga help neurodiverse people?

Key benefits for 4 common examples


There are a lot of neurodiverse people in my family, so I have a great deal of personal experience of what it means to navigate the world as someone that’s a bit ‘different’. My late father, children, husband, niece and nephew, all had/have different conditions and each one brings its own range of challenges.


There’s dyslexia and having to cope with poor memory and slow processing, with the impact this has on self esteem and confidence. ADHD and the difficulties this presents in terms of focus and concentrating, being able to achieve to the best of their abilities at school, fit in with others, complete boring tasks .


Autism (ASD) and appreciating social dynamics and etiquette, being around people, navigating social situations, new experiences and strange environments. Dyspraxia and how it challenges physical co-ordination and fine motor tasks. For teenagers especially being neurodiverse can make life very awkward and affects self esteem.


All these conditions have their own characteristics and are highly complex in terms of how they are presented in individuals. Many people will have a combination and experience some issues and not others. ADHD and ASD are very common, so too is dyslexia with ADHD but possibly more commonly the inattentive version.


Being neurodiverse is stressful

One thing they all share in common is that for people who are neurodiverse, life is stressful. It’s very tiring to be different, to know that you are different and fitting in with everyone else. Having a space and some time to be yourself, be with yourself, a time to clear your head and connect with yourself is really important and that’s where yoga can be highly beneficial. Potentially a very powerful intervention, it is also one that is very low cost and easy to access. No special equipment is required, just an open mind, a bit of time, a quiet place and something comfy to wear.


How can yoga help neurodiverse people?

Yoga has much to offer all types of neurodiversity, for people of all ages and especially for teenagers. Here’s a summary of some of the key benefits of yoga for each example of neurodiversity, some benefits are common to all.


Benefits of Yoga for Dyslexia

• Improved ability to concentrate, improved short term memory - many dyslexics are kinaesthetic learners

• Chance to exercise and move freely in a non competitive environment

• Opportunity to challenge oneself, increase resilience and experience personal growth

• Improved confidence, body image and self-esteem

• Reduces stress and improves emotional regulation (vagal toning)

• Develops the skill of relaxation, improves sleep.


Benefits of Yoga for Dyspraxia

• Improves motor skills, proprioception and all round co-ordination

• Chance to exercise and move freely in a non competitive environment

• Improves muscle tone, core strength, physical fitness

• Improves self-confidence, body image and self-esteem

• Reduces stress and improves emotional regulation (vagal toning)

• Develops the skill of relaxation and stress management, improves sleep


Benefits of Yoga for ADHD

• Reduces the restlessness by quietening the mind through linking breath with movement

• Improves ability to concentrate and focus on a task, improves short term memory

• Improves ability to tolerate ‘boredom’, increasing ‘completer-finisher’ skills and resilience

• Reduces stress and improves emotional regulation (vagal toning)

• Develops the skill of relaxation and stress management, improves sleep


Benefit of Yoga for Autism/ASD

• Improves ability to concentrate and focus on a task, improves short term memory

• Provides a safe social space, chance to communicate with others in a relaxed environment

• Reduces stress and improves emotional regulation (vagal toning)

• Develops the skill of relaxation and stress management, improves sleep

• Improves motor skills, proprioception and all-round co-ordination

• Improves muscle tone, core strength, physical fitness

• Improves self-confidence, body image and self-esteem.


In practice - A case study: Yoga and dyspraxia

I have been working with a really lovely young person who has dyspraxia for the past 6 months and this example highlights some of the benefits. For confidentiality reasons I have deliberately made the write up gender neutral.


They are highly intelligent and very sensitive. Their condition translates as poor proprioception (awareness of where your body is in space) and poor general posture. Standing up straight with even weight through both feet is difficult. Consequently, they move rather awkwardly and have tight muscles as a result. As this student approaches adulthood, these challenges could create chronic musculoskeletal problems – lower back issues, kyphosis, plantar fasciitis, knee pain etc. Tight muscles are a sign of muscular weakness, and they come to yoga to work on core strength, flexibility and improving range of movement, especially around the hip/hamstring area which comes from sitting a lot. Very importantly, they are learning how to relax and develop simple meditation skills. This young person works very hard with me and now knows how to drop into a relaxed state easily, using a body scan to guide their relaxation, followed by a breath meditation. After sessions, they always tell me how they feel ‘really relaxed and happy’.


What about your needs?

As much as yoga helps people who are neurodiverse, it is important to acknowledge other family members and their own needs. Parenting a child with neurodiversity is challenging, frustrating, can be unrewarding at times and it’s hard not to compare your situation with other people - people seem to have perfect families and perfect kids. The thing is. everyone’s got some challenge or other to deal with.


Having the knowledge and tools at your own disposal to manage your own physical and mental wellbeing is really important. This might be giving yourself the space to go to a weekly yoga class, practice for a short time in the morning before everyone wakes up, have a short relaxation at lunch or when you get home. It might seem self-indulgent, but will mean you have more to give back. Yoga happens to be my tool of choice but there are plenty of others. If you don’t fancy yoga, a swim, mindful walk, run, cycle, dancing….anything, will help you to destress, get out of your mind and into your body. Try it.


Celebrating Neurodiversity Week 2023 is taking place from 13th – 17th March.


If you enjoyed reading this article, please share it to help raise awareness of how yoga can help people you know who are neurodiverse or who have children and family members with neurodiversity. And if you know of other benefits I haven’t mentioned, please get in touch and share them with me.


@behappyyogakingston





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