Academic journal article International Journal of Yoga

Effects of Multimodal Mandala Yoga on Social and Emotional Skills for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Exploratory Study

Academic journal article International Journal of Yoga

Effects of Multimodal Mandala Yoga on Social and Emotional Skills for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Exploratory Study

Article excerpt

Byline: Lyn. Litchke, Ting. Liu, Stephanie. Castro

Context: Youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) demonstrates impairment in the ability to socially and emotionally relate to others that can limit participation in groups, interaction with peers, and building successful life relationships. Aims: The aim of this exploratory study was to examine the effects of a novel multimodal Mandala yoga program on social and emotional skills for youth with ASD. Subjects and Methods: Five males with ASD attended 1 h yoga sessions, twice a week for 4 weeks. Multimodal Mandala yoga comprised 26 circular partner/group poses, color and tracing sheets, rhythmic chanting, yoga cards, and games. Treatment and Research Institute for ASD Social Skills Assessment (TSSA) scores were collected before and after the eight yoga sessions. The Modified Facial Mood Scale (MFMS) was used to observe mood changes before and after each yoga class. Paired sample t-tests were conducted on TSSA and MFMS scores to compare social and emotional differences post the 4-week camp. Narrative field notes were documented after each of the eight yoga sessions. Results: A significant improvement from pre- to post-test was found in overall TSSA (t(4) = −5.744, P = 0.005) and on respondent to initiation (t(4) = −3.726, P = 0.020), initiating interaction (t(4) = −8.5, P = 0.039), and affective understanding and perspective taking subscales (t(4) = −5.171 P = 0.007). Youth's MFMS scores increased from 80% to 100% at the end of eight yoga sessions demonstrating a pleasant or positive mood. Thematic analysis of the narrative notes identified three key factors associated with the yoga experience: (a) enhanced mood and emotional expression, (b) increased empathy toward others, and (c) improved teamwork skills. Conclusion: This multimodal Mandala yoga training has implication for developing positive social and emotional skills for youth with ASD.


Youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experiences a constellation of problems in social interaction, coping with change, communication, and repetitive behaviors.[1] Moreover, there is a large emphasis on social and emotional barriers with children with ASD. These symptoms are predominantly present during childhood and can range from very mild to very severe in all ethnic and socioeconomic groups. It is reported that 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with ASD in the United States.[2] Since ASD prevalence has been steadily increasing over the past two decades, it is important to understand whether yoga practices can improve social and emotional barriers in children with ASD.

Traditional yoga postures and breath work provide opportunities for youth with ASD to focus on self and body awareness, transition from one activity to another, and improve sensory motor skills.[3] It has shown to be successful in address some of ASDs core symptoms such as attention behavior problems,[3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10] eye contact,[11],[12],[13] and engagement with others[4],[5],[6],[9],[13],[14] in the classroom[5],[7],[8],[11],[15] and at home.[9],[14],[15] Mandala style yoga, on the other hand, because of its circular design format and connective poses, offers the added component for group synchronized movements focusing on teamwork. Specifically, Mandala style yoga is done in a group circle where participants share poses together and make big geometrical designs. Thus, these added components of Mandala style yoga are above and beyond traditional yoga and functionally offer more opportunities that youth with ASD needs for successful life integration involving eye contact, touch, and shared expression.

While most yoga programs share similar characteristics of improving these communication and social components in their practices through different patterns of movement, limited research has been done to understand if developing a group synchronized Mandala yoga program would be an appropriate protocol to improve children with ASDs social and emotional skills. …

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