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Yoga

Yoga refers to traditional physical and mental disciplines that originated in India. There are different types of yoga. In the West, the term "yoga" is typically associated with Hatha Yoga and its postures. Many people on the autistic spectrum have stressful lives and yoga is excellent for relieving stress. Yoga is also good for physical and mental health in general.

 

What happens to your body in a stressful situation?

 

When you feel stressed, the brain sends out stress signals to the body. The purpose of these signals is to prepare the body for “flight or fight”. This is because we evolved in very dangerous times when most stressful situations were physical dangers, e.g. being eaten by a lion. If you are about to be eaten by a lion, two options are “fight” the lion or “flight”, i.e. flee (run away) from the lion. For both fighting and running, it is useful to have tense muscles. So, these stress signals cause a lot of the muscles in the body to tense up.

 

However, these days, most stressful situations are mental (e.g. a work deadline) rather than physical (e.g. being eaten by a lion). You cannot effectively fight or run away from a deadline. So, stress signals from the brain causing muscle tension are not useful for most stressful situations we might be facing today. In fact, these signals make life even harder, because they also speed up our thinking and make it harder to concentrate. They can also give us physical pains such as stomach aches if the stress goes on for a long time.

 

How does yoga help?

 

During a yoga class, we practice different postures and movements. Most of the postures are designed to stretch and release tension from different muscles. For example, bending forwards to touch your toes stretches the muscles in the backs of the legs. The class finishes with a period of relaxation.

 

Yoga does the opposite of the stress signals from the brain. Just as a stressed brain causes muscles to be tense, doing yoga releases the tension from the muscles, which in turn causes the brain to relax and you to feel calmer.

 

When I do a yoga stretch, I concentrate on releasing any tension that I can feel in my muscles. For example, as I bend forward to reach towards my toes, I notice where it feels tight in my calf muscles and thighs, I concentrate on releasing the tension and I think about lengthening these muscles. As I hold the stretch, my muscles relax a little bit more and I can then move deeper into the stretch. It is important not to force your body to stretch, because you could hurt yourself and you would not be achieving the aim of releasing tension. 

 

Yoga is helping me by making me feel more relaxed. If I have a stressful day and I come home with a stomach ache and the feeling that I cannot switch off or relax, doing yoga calms me down, slows my thoughts and stops my stomach hurting.

To contact, e-mail: debi@aspiedebi.com

“I’ve got autism — there’s not hope at all!”

 

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