3 Benefits of Yoga for Florida Autistic High Schoolers

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Autism affects many lives. It greatly impacted mine. I had the opportunity to teach six yoga, breathing and anger management workshops for autistic teens at Nathan B. Forrest and First Coast High Schools in Jacksonville FL. These 60 Florida autistic high schoolers and I experienced how effectively yoga works. In 45 minutes we noticed marked significant change in mood, behavior and cognitive abilities. Incredible!

3 Benefits of Yoga were easily observable. Each one was instant, tangible and experienced based.

1. Change in Mood – Increased Happiness. We laughed a lot! Celebrated our successes. It’s awe inspiring to see how celebration like clapping hands and high fives make a difference. Celebrating produced increased willingness and ability for the teens to learn faster while having fun. Together we invented the “high thumb” it’s like a high five except you give each other a thumbs up and push your thumb into theirs. As the yoga practice progressed we observed collective and instant innovation taking place among the students. Finishing a pose they were proud they’d lean forward give me a thumbs up and press their thumb into mine and smile. The smiles just melted my heart.

2. Change in Behavior – Calmer. Yoga helps you to calm you down. At one point we had a heighten sense of nervous energy in the room. One teen demonstrated his nerves by hopping around the room without noticing people or the desks in the room. I began to teach them to breath through their nose. He stop jumping, listened to the other teens breathing and he quietly sat down. His nerves were calmed by hearing the breath and soon he was joined the crew in breathing. Amazing! In fact they were all quiet. Soon they also were able to communicate clearly and help each other to follow along. The standing and balancing poses created a sense of calmness. You could feel it in the room. We all focused on one thing, balanced on one leg and took deep nostril breaths. Which for those of you who have and/or work with autistic high schoolers is a monumental task in and of itself. This is from only 45 minutes with a group! The longer we practiced their behavior became increasingly calmer with gentler body movements and softer voices. Some of these kids had severe range of motion limitations and were so calm they were able to focus enough to practice with us. If you think you cannot practice yoga because you’re not flexible enough. Think again!

3. Change in Cognitive Abilities –  Easily Able to Demonstrate. They learned to use yoga and breathing to help them feel better while in school. Some were able to tell me what they could do if they were having a bad day at school. One guy sat up tall when asked how to handle a bad day and said, “Take three breaths.” Touched his nose, closed his eyes and on his own demonstrated nostril breath. Remember this is new information. I’d only been working with them for 30 minutes at this point.  The kids were thrilled to show or tell me how their body felt after taking just three breaths in child’s pose. Their retention of new experienced based  information was groundbreaking. They remembered names of poses and easily demonstrated them. On their own they began to teach each other to breath through their nose!

In essence yoga works! In 45 minutes these kids now have a chance at being able to calm themselves down. We saw significant change in mood, behavior and cognitive abilities. These teens are smart! They each have their own way of seeing the world. Their own challenges to live with that are unique to them. Yet in the midst of all their living with, they smile. Willing to try new exercises like yoga. We worked together as a unit and cheered each other on. These kids are shining examples of pure spirited human beings. They are now empowered to create their own happiness, calm and shift their thinking. May we ever strive to smile no matter what. Give high thumbs. Try something new and take deep breaths.

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The Happiness Question – What Makes You Come Alive?

ImageHave you ever felt dead inside?

Like a machine that’s only clicking it’s way through time without thought or feeling. No meaning to life. Click, click, click…the machine that perpetually moves along. Why are you staying in a space that makes you feel dead? Stop trying to fix and force what isn’t working. It’s time for a new question.

What makes you come alive? 

What makes your toes tap without even thinking about it? When are you smiling ear to ear and don’t even realize it? For me it’s yoga and salsa dancing. When I land warrior II pose, getting deep into my legs and ground into the mat, I feel alive and powerful. When I stretch out my arms and reach, with an energy that shoots out past my fingers, I feel alive. Salsa – oh where do I begin?! The movement touches my soul like nothing else does. It feels like heaven when one smooth turn flows into another. When I’m in synch with my partner – when our hands, arms and feet flow seamlessly. I could dance until my toes are swollen and legs too sore to move the next morning.

This is not about me and what makes me come alive; ultimately, it’s about all of us. The world – each person across our globe doing more of what makes us happy. That’s why asking the happiness question is important. Imagine with me a world where each person smiles every day all day long. Where people are applauded for their craft and what they bring to the world. That happens when each of us are brave enough to fall in love with brings us alive. To practice our craft, to fall in love with it again and again. To play with it and make it ours.

What makes you come alive? Tell me. Now that you know, go do it! Practice it and make it your obsession. We want to experience you when you’re at your best. Share it with us – the world. We want to see you come alive.

Law of Attraction: who do you say you are?

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We attract what we are.

Yes, we attract what we are, not who we look like. Since I believe this to be true, the statement begs the question, “Well…who are you?” That’s not a big question, right, ha?! Yes, well what if it isn’t a big question at all? What if you don’t even need to know? Perhaps you can declare who you are without evidence.

Start by noticing what’s here now. Become an observer. Being an observer will show you who you are and what you are attracting. Look around at who and what’s in your life. Notice everything. What and who’s here now will tell you what you’ve been attracting. It’s easy to observe and judge. Don’t judge, just notice.

Typically when I ask my clients, “Who do you say you are?” They tell me who they were or what other people think. I’m not interested in who you were or what people have told you, you are. What I’m interested in is, “Who do you say you are now?” Tell me who you are becoming despite who you’ve been in the past. You are not your past. Since you are not your past let’s not focus on it.

Focus on what you’re noticing. Is it lining up with who you say you are? If it does keep going and if doesn’t perhaps a few changes are needed. This law of attraction is working, usually it’s behind the scenes whether we recognize it or not. Yes, even if we work with it or not. To work with it line up; who you say you are, with what you’re thinking and what you’re doing. Don’t be afraid. You can do it. Go ahead, tell me, who do YOU say you are?