Ashrams for Autism grew organically out of a mother's love for her daughter and a desire to heal individuals through yoga. When founder Sharon Manner's youngest child Kerri was diagnosed with autism more than 20 years ago, the young mom went through a gamut of ups and downs, trying to figure out how to best help her daughter -- and deal with the difficult diagnosis herself. As a yogi, Manner instinctively knew her yoga teachers and practices would help support her. What she didn't realize, at least at first, was how much yoga would help her daughter too.
Instead of relying on medication to calm her daughter, Manner created calming yoga sequences, cooked a healthy diet that eliminated stimulating foods, and brought her to regular acu-pressure and Reiki appointments -- all aimed at helping her get grounded and self-regulate when overstimulation did occur. Manner's efforts paid off, and Kerri starting navigating the highs and lows of her autism symptoms more easily. When Manner told her yoga mentor about this success, he helped her develop a program to bring her yoga-inspired regimen to schools and other facilities for kids with autism.
In 2010, she founded Ashrams for Autism, implementing her programs in New York and New Jersey area schools and autism facilities. Sharon also founded Samadhi Sun, a yoga school providing specialized yoga-for-autism teacher trainings to the public, offering 100-hour Yoga Alliance trainings to teach people how to work with autistic kids and their caregivers.
She firmly believes that using yogic techniques positively impacts those on the spectrum; helping them achieve peace and dignity within themselves. She is on a mission to provide mindfulness programs and services for this population and their caregivers. Creating a sanctuary for those who have “aged out” of school systems or have been isolated from society is one of the driving forces behind Sharon’s mission.
"Our ultimate goal is to build ashram-inspired spaces where students and young adults can live after they age out of their autism programs," says Manner. "And we're getting close!" Manner says she finds as much joy in Ashrams for Autism as the students do. "The happiness this program brings to everyone who works here is undeniable. We bring these children yoga, and what's reflected back to us is pure consciousness and love. It's beautiful."