How yoga improved my autistic symptoms

Picture of Nicole Niederman

Nicole Niederman.

When I was twenty-two months old, I was diagnosed with autism: a language and communication disorder. In the beginning of my life, I experienced belated milestone development, a slight inability to vocally communicate, and a social awkwardness to name a few of my symptoms. My parents and grandparents provided endless financial support for me to try many different therapies, some that worked and some didn’t. Because of all this I was lucky enough to gain higher-functioning skills to the point where I could seamlessly merge into the public school system without the aid of disability services or special education classes.

Despite my successful grades, my autism was secretly prominent. I found difficulty in reading the social cues of my peers and frequently made comments that were puzzling and, at times, brutally honest. I was victim to teasing and one-way friendships. I hardly made the effort to socialize with friends outside of school and opted to lock myself away in my room and play make-believe, write stories, or draw instead. On top of my social struggles, I had high anxiety about controlling certain things and erupted into meltdowns when I became frustrated. I was saddened by the unfair treatment from the other kids and many days I came home from school crying. I started to develop a toxic resentment towards my school mates. This torment continued until I was in tenth grade, when I felt that I needed to change something about myself in order to become more social and adaptable to the teenage world.

I had met with my yoga therapist, Ketna Shah, in a small yoga studio owned by a family friend in the fall of my sophomore year. I had originally intended to use yoga as a means to mend my slight scoliosis and possibly enhance my artistic skills. However, after visiting with Ketna and developing a steady home practice, I began to realize that yoga’s role was intended to relieve my social anxiety. Like most teenagers, I had difficulty committing to my home practice more than once a week (the one time being my weekly session with Ketna). Ketna would frown at me and repetitively say; “You must do your yoga every day. Do yoga and all good fortune will come!”

Adjusting the hour-long practice into my schedule became a challenge, but something inside of me yearned to persevere with the practice. When I committed to the practice and remained fully present, I noticed that I became more relaxed during the day. My mind was temporarily clear of ceaseless thoughts and the words that were more appropriate to say flowed out of my mouth more naturally. My anxiety also relinquished and I became more flexible with circumstances that did not go according to what I thought would happen. My creative fire ignited after a practice, allowing me to expand my ideas with my art and writing and become fully immersed in my creativity. But most importantly, my yoga practice got me more in touch with my body and connected me with my authentic self. Every day I practice, I learned a little bit more about the beautiful young woman I was meant to be. As a result, I set social goals for myself to become more outgoing and listened to my body’s cues to feel what actions were successful.

Today, I have blossomed into a very eloquent speaker with aspirations of becoming an illustrator and a creative writer. I have become so outgoing that I developed a reputation at my college for being friends with everyone. Hardly anyone can tell that I have high-functioning autism. I am approaching my fourth anniversary of taking yoga classes with Ketna. And I practice yoga as diligently as I possibly can, especially at five-thirty in the morning before my college classes. I continue with my practice because yoga has helped me with my social skills, my art, and my inner development. It has now become a truism with me that when I practice yoga, I do receive such pleasant fortune!

Nicole Niederman.

If you have questions concerning autism and yoga or want to explore Nicole’s art, please contact her at: nniede20 [AT] student.scad.edu.

Related: The Yoga Of Autism

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4 Responses to How yoga improved my autistic symptoms

  1. Pingback: Darren Main – Resources for the Urban Mystic » Blog Archive » Yoga and Autism

  2. Maria Murphy says:

    Thank you for this article! I have a 6 year old daughter who was recently diagnosed with PDD.
    I myself am a practitioner of yoga. Sadly, it never occurred to me that yoga could have such an
    impact on this type of disability. I’m going to look onto a class for her or perhaps a Mother-Daughter
    class.

  3. Pingback: Yoga Modern » Weekly Roundup: Captain Spiritual, Mick Does Sanskrit, and the Fringe Benefits of Failure

  4. Pingback: My Life Yoga… « lindseyogabliss

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