Relaxation response-based yoga improves functioning in young children with autism: a pilot study

J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Nov;17(11):1029-35. doi: 10.1089/acm.2010.0834. Epub 2011 Oct 12.


Objectives: The study objectives were to develop and objectively assess the therapeutic effect of a novel movement-based complementary and alternative medicine approach for children with an autism-spectrum disorder (ASD).

Design: A within-subject analysis comparing pre- to post-treatment scores on two standard measures of childhood behavioral problems was used. SETTINGS AND LOCATION: The intervention and data analysis occurred at a tertiary care, medical school teaching hospital.

Subjects: Twenty-four (24) children aged 3-16 years with a diagnosis of an ASD comprised the study group.

Intervention: The efficacy of an 8-week multimodal yoga, dance, and music therapy program based on the relaxation response (RR) was developed and examined.

Outcome measures: The study outcome was measured using The Behavioral Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (BASC-2) and the Aberrant Behavioral Checklist (ABC).

Results: Robust changes were found on the BASC-2, primarily for 5-12-year-old children. Unexpectedly, the post-treatment scores on the Atypicality scale of the BASC-2, which measures some of the core features of autism, changed significantly (p=0.003).

Conclusions: A movement-based, modified RR program, involving yoga and dance, showed efficacy in treating behavioral and some core features of autism, particularly for latency-age children.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autistic Disorder / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / therapy*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dance Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation
  • Music Therapy
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Pilot Projects
  • Program Evaluation
  • Relaxation Therapy*
  • Yoga*