Benefits Of Yoga For Sensory Processing Disorder

Benefits Of Yoga For Sensory Processing Disorder

The term ‘Yoga’ always tends to give us a sense of calmness and peace of mind. People have been practising Yoga since centuries now and everyone who practices it regularly knows and can explain unlimited benefits it gives them. The word Yoga is derived from a Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ which means union or something that brings you to reality. It is essentially divided into eight components originating from the scriptures of Patanjali’s Ashthanga Yoga. They are-

  • Yama (Abstinence)
  • Asana (Postures)
  • Pratyahara (Withdrawal of senses)
  • Dhyana (Meditation)
  • Niyama (Observation)
  • Pranayama (Breath-control)
  • Dharana (Concentration)
  • Samadhi (Absorption)

In this article, we will focus on the benefits of Asanas and Pranayama for children with Sensory Processing Disorder.

Let us understand what is Sensory Processing and Sensory Processing Disorder

Our body continually receives input through various sensory organs and processes the input for better functioning of the body and mind. We are all aware of the 5 sensory systems of the body, that is- vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Along with these 5 senses, we have 3 more internal senses that help in regulation and influence arousal in the body. These senses are- Proprioception, Vestibular and Interoception.

Proprioception is the part of the sensory system through which our body receives signals from the skeletal system, i.e. through muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons and bones. It is through proprioception that we are able to walk, hold objects in our hands, or understand exactly how much pressure should be applied to pick a particular object or lift a weight. Proprioception helps us understand space and environment and improve body awareness in relation to space and environment.

Vestibular is the sensory system which perceives movement input. The input of movement is perceived through the vestibular apparatus in our inner ear and it gives an understanding of the body in space (whether the body is moving sideways or forwards or backwards); it also helps in understanding our head position in space and helps in maintaining our balance and coordination.

Interoception is the sensory system where the brain perceives and understands what is going on in different parts of the body. For example, when we feel hungry, or thirsty, when we feel our heart beating fast, or when we are breathing heavily or slowly; how we feel butterflies in our stomach when there is a sense of excitement or fear. All these internal sensations of the body perceived by the brain are called interoception.

Sensory Processing thus means interaction and integration of all of the senses together in order to perform daily living activities as well as for the ability to focus, concentrate and attend to daily life skills which will thus influence our confidence, self-esteem and being able to regulate oneself in any given situations.

To simplify, the term Sensory Processing Disorder means difficulty faced by the brain to interpret certain sensations in the body which results in abnormal responses by the body. This is a neurophysiological condition where the sensory input can be detected abnormally either from the body or also from the environment. The input can either be abnormally detected in the form of modulation or discrimination. Thus, sensory processing disorder can be seen in three different forms-

  1. Sensory modulation disorders- in this type, the person either is over-responsive or under-responsive to a certain sensory stimulus or they crave for particular sensory stimuli more than the other senses.
  2. Sensory-based motor disorders- are also called as challenges in Motor Planning and executing tasks. They can be divided into two subtypes- dyspraxia and postural disorders
  3. Sensory discrimination disorders- This means that particular qualities of sensory stimuli are perceived more or less than so that registering that input for the body becomes difficult.

To Know more about Sensory Processing Disorders, visit the Star SPD page-

Let us look at how daily practice of Yoga with Asana and Pranayama helps in Sensory Processing-

Research has been conducted worldwide to understand the amazing benefits Yoga has on a human body and mind along with its benefits for someone having Sensory Processing Disorder (check out our references towards the end for research articles).

The Asanas that we carry out are slow movements of the body into maintaining postures in different positions right from standing, sitting, bending, twisting and lying down. It is also looked upon as a form of exercise. It has been concluded that daily Asana practice helps in improving flexibility, muscle strength improves balance and coordination along with improving focus and attention. Since children diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorders have been seen to have challenges in balance, coordination and body awareness, daily practising the various forms of asanas and gradually progressing in a stepwise manner helps to improve these skills.

During performing Asanas, the child will gradually move from one position to the other and maintain the position for a few seconds before shifting to the next. This creates an impact on the musculoskeletal system which will work on improving the proprioceptive sense of the body. There is also an impact seen on improved trunk strength and stability along with proximal musculature and core strength, which will also improve the child’s body awareness along with better gross motor skills. As many postures require weight-bearing on the hands, it helps in strengthening small muscles of the hands, thus developing good fine motor as well as Eye-Hand Coordination skills.

Almost all of the Yoga postures are performed in different positions and require movement of the body as well as neck, these postures provide excellent input to the body’s vestibular system. It also improves the child’s balance and coordination which further helps in improving his/her Motor Planning skills. Regular consistent practice of Yoga is also seen to have benefits with the Interoception sense of the body as well.

Let us look at a few Yoga poses and discuss their benefits for Sensory Processing-

Downward Dog Pose- This is an excellent pose that gives us vestibular input as our head is in an inverted position. This also gives an amazing proprioceptive input through hands, arms, trunk and legs. It helps in improving core strength as well as body awareness along with improving bilateral integration skills.

The triangle pose– This pose gives us vestibular input through head movements and proprioceptive input through arms and engagement of the core and static holding of the position.

Tree pose- This pose improves balance and coordination to a great extent as we balance on one leg at a time, along with stretching the whole of the upper body providing a great proprioceptive input to the entire body

Warrior pose- This pose improves body’s Proprioceptive awareness and strengthens the body along with improving balance and coordination.

Cobra pose- The cobra pose provides the body with an intense vestibular input through changes in head and neck positions. It also improves the body’s proprioceptive awareness and works on strengthening core and back extensor muscles along with improving bilateral integration skills.

Suryanamaskara or Sun Salutations- This is the most ancient practice of Yoga consisting of 12 different postures. One round of simple sun salutation will give you all the benefits right from improving proprioceptive awareness, and improved bilateral integration skills also gives the body the vestibular input, and improving balance, coordination and motor planning. Regular practice of sun salutations also helps in improving attention and focus on academic tasks for children.

All of the above-mentioned Asanas also collectively work towards improving the Interoceptive awareness of the body as well.

These are some of the Asanas and practices I have enlisted. Similarly, there are many more that you can choose for your child.

Similar to Asanas, we also incorporate Pranayama into our daily practice. Pranayama simply means breathing practices. Incorporating a daily breathing ritual with your child helps in improving focus, attention and regulation skills. It also helps in reducing anxieties and is seen to also relax a person. A few simple breathing practices you can incorporate are-

Alternate nostril breathing, the figure of 8-breathing, box-breathing, etc.

There are many other benefits of Yoga that helps children diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder-

Improves behaviour and emotional regulation-

Multiple researches and studies have been conducted to understand the benefits of Yoga on behavioural and emotional regulation in children. It has been concluded that regular daily practice of Yoga works in calming the nervous system and also reduces anxiety in children as well as in adults. This helps children to regulate their emotions and feelings and reduces tantrums. Children become more aware and are able to express their emotions better. It helps in grounding ourselves and establishing a peaceful environment around us.

Improves social skills-

Yoga helps in improving gross motor, and fine motor skills along with improving overall body awareness and balance and coordination. This leads to improvement in the child’s play skills, which in turn improves the child’s self-esteem and confidence. All these skills contribute to improving the child’s social skills.

Improves digestion-

Daily practice of Yoga helps in reducing stress and anxieties. It has been concluded that stress and anxieties directly contribute to digestion difficulties in children as well as adults. When a person is in a stressful or anxiety-prone situation, it leads to an increase in the stress hormone called Cortisol. Cortisol directly impacts the digestion process by blocking the uptake of various nutrients from the gut. This leads to digestive difficulties which can be experienced in the form of stomach upset, constant constipation or diarrhoea, acidity or bloating. These symptoms are not only experienced by adults but also by children these days. Regular Yoga helps in reducing the Cortisol levels in the body and thus helps in the proper uptake of nutrients from the gut that further helps in better digestion.

How to practice Yoga with your child-

The practice of Yoga doesn’t have to be very serious and uptight. It has to be fun and exciting for your child. Make it playful and slowly encourage them to incorporate a few of the Asanas and pranayama if not more. You can start slow and gradually increase the pace as per the skill level of your child. Do not make it competitive at all, as the essence of awareness, peace, regulation and balance will be lost, if it becomes competitive. Use visuals of the poses you want to practice to show to your child before the start of that pose. There are many Yoga related games and books available which will make your and your child’s practice fun and interactive. A few of the references for games and links are-


Integrated Movement Therapy™: Yoga-Based Therapy as a Viable and Effective Intervention for Autism Spectrum and Related Disorders: Molly Kenny-

Evaluation of the Mental Health Benefits of Yoga in a Secondary School: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial- by Sat Bir S. Khalsa PhD, Lynn Hickey-Schultz EdD, Deborah Cohen MEd, Naomi Steiner MD & Stephen Cope MSW

Yoga Therapy and Polyvagal Theory: The Convergence of Traditional Wisdom and Contemporary Neuroscience for Self-Regulation and Resilience- by Marlysa B., Sullivan, Matt Erb, Laura Schmalzl, Steffany Moonaz, Jessica Noggle Taylot and Stephen W Porges

Effect of mindfulness yoga programme MiYoga on attention, behaviour, and physical outcomes in cerebral palsy: a randomized controlled trial- Catherine Mak, Koa Whittingham, Ross Cunnington, Roslyn N Boyd-

Effect of mindfulness and yoga on quality of life for elementary school students and teachers: results of a randomized controlled school-based study- Alessandra N Bazzano, Christopher E Anderson, Chelsea Hylton, Jeanette Gustat-

Effects of a classroom-based yoga intervention on cortisol and behavior in second- and third-grade students: a pilot study- Bethany Butzer 1, Danielle Day 2, Adam Potts 2, Connor Ryan 2, Sarah Coulombe 2, Brandie Davies 2, Kimberly Weidknecht 2, Marina Ebert 3, Lisa Flynn 4, Sat Bir S Khalsa 5

What are the known effects of yoga on the brain in relation to motor performances, body awareness and pain? A narrative review- Emmanuelle Rivest-Gadbois 1, Marie-Hélène Boudrias 2