Hi, I'm a Pilates teacher and i have a young daughter with Autism. Has anyone had any experience with exercise helping with emotions, concentration or anxiety? And does anyone know if there is any training out there for exercise and autism?
Hmmm... the way modern Tai Chi is done in the west, it can be relaxing and promote mindfulness etc. However, Tai Chi (Quan) is a martial art, so if done correctly it can (initially) be physically agonising and exhausting (not a bad thing if you wanna take the edge off your autism!). Plus, a lot of Tai Chi classes incorporate meditational practices too, and also stuff like Qi Qong etc.
Indeed, it's actually not unheard of for autistics to get involved in martial arts. It makes sense when you think about it - the hours and hours of familiarising oneself with an alien system (e.g. new movements, new stylised behaviour, an interesting history as well as strange language etc), doing the same stylised movements again-and-again, literally countless thousands of times. Plus, it can channel aggression into something more acceptable and less harmful.
It's common for autistics to be quite physically uncoordinated and 'clumsy'. So re-learning how to ground yourself in your body again, and master your physical movements, can be wonderful. Plus, you get to socialise with like-minded people who are fascinated by the strange subject (i.e. eastern martial practice).
So, whilst martial arts in itself is not geared for autistics, the discipline, structure and repetition can be appealing.
Personally, I engage in High Intensity Training (H.I.T) at the gym... which I call 'C.P.R' - 'Controlled Pressure Release'. I go to the gym with my music blaring as loud as possible on my headphones (specifically with a tempo for fast cardio, usually ramped-up house or techno music in excess of 160+ bpm), and do very intensive cardio work on the likes of the treadmill or spin-bike. This is usually when I feel the build-up of pressure, whereby I know I'm moving closer to 'meltdown' - hence I need to release the pressure in a controlled manner, rather than have an inappropriate outburst at friends or colleagues etc. The benefits for me include:
It strikes me that a lot of autistic individuals shy away from dedicated exercise. I dunno, maybe it's because we don't have the same connection with our bodies. But for me, that's the appeal and beauty of it - as you get to revel in something new, and train your physical self whilst channelling your anxieties and pressure into something far more productive!