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Embracing Neurodiversity in Mindfulness: A Variety of Breath Practices

articles May 31, 2024
neurodiversity, practices, mindfulness, breath, movement, humming, accessible, specialized, tailored

In the world of mindfulness, Sue Hutton MSW/RSW, shared at a recent Mindful Society Global Institute learning event on "Neurodiversity & Mindfulness" that the beauty of diversity is akin to the variety we see in birds. Each bird is unique, just as each individual is, particularly in the neurodivergent community.

This article explores neurodiversity-informed breath practices designed by Sue Hutton, MSW/RSW, at the CAMH Azrieli Adult Neurodevelopmental Centre. These practices are inclusive and adaptable, offering various options to help individuals connect with mindfulness in a way that suits them best.


  1. Understanding Neurodiversity and Inclusion
  2. Preparing Participants for a Practice
  3. Sound Breathing Practices
  4. Lotus Breathing Practices
  5. Humming Practice
  6. Adapting the Practices


Understanding Neurodiversity and Inclusion

Neurodiversity celebrates the different ways our brains work, including autism, ADHD, and other ways of being that might not be immediately visible. Creating a mindful practice that is inclusive means considering how we can accommodate these differences. The language we use and the practices we adopt can either create a welcoming environment or unintentionally exclude individuals.

Accessibility also extends to the ways we facilitate virtual mindfulness sessions. We might not always know the specific needs of each participant, whether they are visually impaired, hard of hearing, or use a mobility device. Our goal is to use inclusive language and offer a variety of mindfulness approaches that cater to different sensory preferences and learning styles


Neurodiversity-Informed Breath Practices


Preparing Participants for a Practice

Begin by having them find a comfortable position. This could involve attending to their posture, rolling their shoulders, or gently swaying if that feels more natural to them. The idea is to settle into a still position that allows them to feel at ease.

Sound Breathing Practices

  1. Hand Rubbing: Start by rubbing your hands together to create warmth and a physical connection. Focus on the sound and sensation of your hands rubbing.
  2. Hand Breathing: Hold one hand in front of your mouth. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly onto your palm, paying attention to the sound of your breath and the sensation on your hand. Repeat a few times, connecting with both the sound and the touch.
  3. Nose Breathing: Transition to breathing through your nose while maintaining the same depth and volume. Focus on the rhythm and sound of your breath for three full breaths.

Lotus Breathing Practices

  1. Hand Movements: Open and close your hand, imagining a lotus flower blooming during the day and closing at night. Feel the sensations in your palm and fingers as you move.
  2. Synchronized Breathing: Inhale as you open your hand and exhale as you close it. Try to synchronize the beginning and end of your breath with the movement of your hand. Repeat this for three breaths, focusing on the coordination of breath and movement.

Humming Breath Practice

  1. Humming: Inhale deeply and exhale with a long hum on any note that feels comfortable. Focus on the sound and vibration created by the humming. Repeat this for three breaths.


Adapting the Practices

Remember, each body is unique. You can modify these practices to suit individual needs. If someone has limited hand mobility, even moving one finger can be enough. The key is to make the practice their own. They might also find it more comfortable to rest their hands on their thighs while practicing Lotus Breathing. The objective is to use their hand movements as a signal to their brain to breathe in and out.

For some neurodivergent individuals, these practices can be a preferred way to connect with mindfulness, while others might find them challenging. It’s important to remember that we all have different strengths and preferences. By offering a variety of techniques, we can help each person find what works best for them.

Embracing neurodiversity in mindfulness means recognizing and accommodating the unique ways our brains and bodies work. By incorporating inclusive practices and language, we can create a supportive environment where everyone has the chance to thrive.


Feel free to share this post with friends, family, or colleagues. Thanks for your ongoing interest and support!

 Michael Apollo MHSc RP is the founder of the Mindful Society Global Institute. Prior to founding MSGI in 2014, he was the Program Director of Mindfulness at the University of Toronto. He is an educator, licensed mental health clinician and certified facilitator in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.


The content in our blogs is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health provider with any questions you may have regarding your mental health.

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