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Book Review on PsychCentral

Yoga Therapy for Children with Autism and Special Needs by Louise Goldberg

As a former yoga teacher, I used to consider Anatomy of Hatha Yoga my bedside manual. Years later, after my life priorities changed and the focus on physical stamina became less important than attaining a peaceful mind, I revisited the practice. It was a different yoga in my forties than in my twenties and thirties, despite that the poses and concepts were the same.

This reminded me that the quintessence of yoga includes many things — among them, intentional focus, honoring the body, cultivating patience, and the acceptance of personal responsibility. And it showed me that yoga is malleable and flexible — that there are forms appropriate for people of all levels, ages, and stages.

In the early 2000s, I taught a weekly Yoga for Kids course in Arlington, Virginia. The children in the class were energetic, outgoing, and eager to contort themselves into animal poses (with animal sounds, of course). The most challenging part of each session was getting the little students to appreciate savasana (final relaxation), or, as we called it then, “the silent game.”

At the end of each class parents would approach me and ask for tips on how they might encourage their child to practice more silence at home. My standard response was a suggestion that they practice the asana series with their child. As much as I would have liked to take credit for the well-mannered and relaxed children at the end of class, it wasn’t mine to claim. It was the essence of yoga itself and a testament to how it can be adapted to fit different people.

The opportunity to read Louise Goldberg’s Yoga Therapy for Children with Autism and Special Needs introduced me to yet another layer of the millennia-old practice. Goldberg shows that children, autistic or not, can be taught to focus, breathe, and relax with regular yoga practice.

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