Yesterday I taught a class at the Special Needs Foundation in Koh Samui. This facility helps to support kids and teenagers who are on the autism spectrum. When I started the class, this young Thai boy was slumped face-down on a yoga mat, he refused to make eye contact, nor acknowledge the presence of others in the room. I decided to let him be, and started the class practising poses with a chair. After about 5 minutes, he became curious, and started to emulate what we were doing. I quietly placed a chair on his mat, and invited him to follow along. We did breath work, dynamic and grounding poses with gentle touch and repatterning, and finished with this restorative inversion with legs up the chair.
Within the space of an hour, the change in his temperament was profound. He smiled and engaged with me and others verbally, his body language was one of openness. He also gave me a number of big bear hugs and walked me to my bike to bid me goodbye.
The central theme in the trainings I facilitate is on the regulation of the nervous system. In Body Mind Centering, our nervous system serves as a recording device, it records every phenomenon in every moment and red flags events that might potentially threaten our perception of safety based on our biopsychosocial memory bank of experiences. Using Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory as a basis to approach therapy, we can create a container of safety and compassion to mindfully titrate somatic awareness for our clients and students who suffers from anxiety, trauma or disassociative syndrome, allowing the body-mind to slowly reintegrate into a present, embodied moment.
In cases of autism spectrum the nervous system is often overwhelmed. This boy was in shut-down mode before the class. What I observed was through a container of safety activation of movement, breath, and touch, his nervous system could be shifted from one of shut down and disassociation to one of presence and engagement .
This post was previously posted on Yogawithdaphne.com on May 19th 2019