Harper, 7, helped by Yoga exercises.

Harper, 7, helped by Yoga exercises.

By Kendra Keetch

RAMA FN – When my daughter Harper was born seven years ago she cried all the time. I really mean she cried all the time. Constantly.  It didn’t just seem that way to me because I was a new and single mother. Ask anyone. She cried all the time.

I couldn’t figure it out because she was fed, changed and clean. I played with her, snuggled her. There was no reason for her to be so cranky all the time. After she was born I didn’t sleep for close to five years because her sleep patterns were erratic and she was unable to self-soothe.

It wasn’t until June 2013 that I finally learned the reason why she cried so much all the time: Autism. I suppose I always knew there had to be something, I mean, I wasn’t the worst parent in the world – far from it – so why was  she so upset all the time? There was something internal triggering her anxiety. And there it was: Autism. Saying it over again doesn’t make it better or worse. It is what it is.

I immediately began to read everything I could get my hands on that related to Autism and especially Autism in girls. I learned that girls with Autism often slip through the cracks in school systems because they are naturally compliant and want to fit in. They don’t exhibit many of the outwardly disruptive behaviours that autistic boys do.

There had to be something that would help with the crying and her anxiety. I had read something somewhere about yoga and Autism and I had the feeling that this might be the key. In children with

Autism, Yoga can help develop motor skills, improve confidence and social skills, provide sensory integration and coping techniques, facilitate self-awareness, is orderly and consistent.

All these were the exact things that Harper needed support with. All these were things that would improve with her Yoga practice. I decided to make Yoga happen in Rama.

I took the initiative to write a proposal for a Yoga program in my community,  later called YogaRama.  YogaRama helps all families be active and become healthy.  Yoga is a sober, family-oriented activity.

The classes filled up and everyone who came enjoyed and connected not only to their practice but on some level also to each other.

The success of YogaRama is that Yoga is accessible to everyone. We started with one class of total beginners and one class of just mothers and daughters. I was nervous when the first class started because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do all the moves. Whatever your skill level and wherever you are on your journey to health and wellness, you can do Yoga.

Yoga helps to manage Harper’s Autism – it teaches her how to relax when she feels herself becoming overwhelmed.  Yoga helps Harper get her wiggles out when she feels like she needs to run laps or jump up and down for hours on end.  Yoga also helps me get into better shape and manage my own anxiety from dealing with my daughter’s special needs.