The most common chromosomal disorder in America, one in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome, which is about 6,000 each year. There are approximately 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the United States alone, says the CDC.
While it can be a tough condition to deal with, parents of children with Down Syndrome have two choices—give in to the situation and let life take its own course or fight it out and make every effort possible to let your child live a happy and fulfilled life.
The many health benefits of yoga can prove beneficial for people living Down Syndrome, too. Yoga postures not only help improve balance, flexibility, and overall health, but also calm the nervous system and induce relaxation—all of which are very important for the patients.
Licensed Professional Counselor Associate Rosellen Reif has been helping families affected by disabilities like Down Syndrome in North Carolina for over 15 years. She feels that yoga can help people living with Down Syndrome in more ways that you can imagine.
Here she lists for us 9 benefits of yoga for people with Down Syndrome, and the poses they can do to experience them:
1. A Safe Form of Exercise
Many people with Down Syndrome are advised not to partake in high-impact sports, as cardiac, respiratory, and musculoskeletal problems are all common for people born with Down Syndrome. Yoga offers a low-intensity way to see real health benefits without risking injury.
2. Improved Muscle Tone
One of the common characteristics of Down Syndrome is hypotonia (low muscle tone). Even very basic yoga poses such as Tadasana (or the tree pose) help to stretch, tone, and strengthen muscles throughout the body without posing a tremendous risk for injury.
3. Weight Loss & Maintenance
Excessive, lifelong weight gain is a common problem for people with Down Syndrome, whose resting metabolic rate tends to be 10-15 percent lower than that of the general population. Yoga offers a fantastic way through which they can incorporate a structured exercise into their daily routine.
4. No Height Restriction
People with Down Syndrome tend to be shorter than average, and as a result, many have difficulty participating in common sports activities where being of average or above average height is a benefit or requirement. Yoga offers a way to get exercise without these restrictions.
6. Greater Confidence & The Willingness To Exercise
The repetitiveness of yoga, such as knowing that every session will start and end with child’s pose, gives people with Down Syndrome the confidence that they know what to expect from each yoga session. This can help them feel more capable and willing to try new exercises that they otherwise might not be willing to try.
7. Improved Coping Through Deep Breathing
As a counselor who teaches many clients to learn deep breathing as a coping skill, Reif sees that those who have experience in Hatha yoga, which combines basic movements with breathing exercises, are better able to learn to breathe deeply using their diaphragm.
8. Better Sleep Quality
By creating a bedtime routine that incorporates simple and relaxing poses, such as variations of Sukhasana (an easy forward bend), many people with Down Syndrome find that their quality of sleep improves greatly.
Relaxation is the reason that many people take an interest in yoga, and the same is true for people with Down Syndrome. The Savasana (corpse) pose is a favorite of many of Reif’s clients who have practiced yoga. When they find themselves feeling anxious or tense, they use this pose as a coping mechanism to elicit deep relaxation and calm.
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