Autistic Students Learn Yoga in New Program

A new yoga program at the American School For The Deaf encourages students with autism to connect with their breath.

During sessions, a yoga teacher and sign language interpreter work together to lead students through basic yoga poses. The students, who are between 15 and 17 years old, practice breathing and moving together as a group.

"Yoga is about the mind-body spirit connection," says .Peg Higgins, the administrative assistant at the school who introduced the program. "It gets their minds focused away from the self. This is helping to break the barriers of poor communication with the world."

There has been several recent studies in the United States to support the benefits of yoga for children with autism. Jenny Ehleringer, a yoga teacher for people with special needs, wrote a paper on autism and the benefits of yoga in 2010.

"Especially with kids with autism, I think the breath awareness helps," she says. "I think they don't have much connection with their bodies. They hear, 'Take a deep breath, calm your body,' but they have no idea what calm means. With yoga, they can use their breath to help get that feeling."