Yoga With Special Benefits for Kids With Special Needs

By Rina Baraz-Nehdar

Naam Yoga for people with autism

Naam Yoga in Santa Monica offers a free Friday class for people on the autism spectrum.

Naam yoga is unlike any kind of yoga I’ve practiced before, and I have been practicing for more than a decade. The Naam style combines movement (mudra), sound (mantra) and breath (pranayama) to promote vibrant health within the body and mind, and I got to see its effects recently on a class of people on the autism spectrum.

At the Naam Yoga studio in Santa Monica, I felt the floor shake as the students pounded, combining musical beats with movement and joy. Instructor Eugene Pisareuski helped release any tension in their bodies by guiding his students through sharp exhalations and beautiful mantras. The room resonated from a chorus of their declarations that “I am love to all. I am peace to all.” They filed out after class with soft faces and laughter.

Kate, a parent I met at the class, says her two adopted sons, Nathan, 22 and Michael, 8, have special needs and have participated in the Friday class for two years. “I wish they could do this every day,” she says, noting that the class leaves her boys calmer and helps them sleep better. “This practice centers them, and that’s a definite plus.”

The Naam Yoga studio offers a wide range of classes, targeting physically healthy students as well as those with specific health challenges. The nonprofit studio also offers free sessions targeted to promote healing for people who’ve experienced strokes, diabetes or cancer.

Naam Yoga Los Angeles Executive Director Jane Mirshak says there are many different paths to healing, but that Naam yoga “opens your heart and makes you happy. When you are happy, you can deal with stress.”

Mirshak explains that the sound element of Naam yoga redirects energy throughout the body, the movements and pressure points stimulate healing in both body and brain, and the breath work promotes relaxation. “Whatever ailment someone is experiencing,” says Mirshak, “we could design a routine to specifically address it.”

Naam Yoga is located at 1231 Fourth St., Santa Monica. Therapies for Autism is held from 5:25-5:55 p.m. Fridays. Admission is free.

Learn more at 310-751-7550 or

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