I met Professor Thomas, who was wearing a vivid yellow bow tie. Out of the blue He mentioned, "Life is very different these days." I enquired if He was referring to the IT evolution. "Not just IT, it's everything. Life as it is now isn't any better or worse, it's just so different."
I courageously announced that I am digitalising my books for IT platforms and He asked, "Are you an author too, have you written more than five books like me?" I replied "I have written seven books on the subject of Yoga for disabled people." He revealed his recent book was on the History of Radiography. "Not as appealing as Yoga", he added. He then further explained his personal interest was because he had a 29 years old son with Down's Syndrome.
I casually commented about there's not so many Down's syndrome babies being born these days. When instantly He raged about the expulsion of them before birth is outrageous and such an appalling lose to humanity!
In earnest I replied, "Down's syndrome people are the nicest people I know. For they have the natural human qualities of inspiring, endearing affection. Furthermore, they take to Yoga like 'ducks to water' with their flexible bodies and ability to be 'in the present moment' more so than most of us." The professor nodded and grinned in agreement.
This conversation inspired me to write about Down's Syndrome and Yoga.
The hallmark of people born with Down's syndrome is that they have: characteristic facial appearances, hyper-mobile joints, a variety of associated medical conditions, some degree of intellectual disability and variable self-care skills.
Up to the last decade or so, this condition occurred in every 700 births, more often in boys than girls. Most of the people with Down's syndrome I know are good-natured with a good sense of rhythm, however some do have a stubborn personality.
Congenital heart disease is present in approximately half born with Down's syndrome. In which case, care is needed with techniques requiring lying on the back and must be avoided in severe cases.
Down's syndrome people respond very well to Yoga. Because they are good mimics and can copy the yoga movements quite well with their flexible joints.
Their supple mobility is not a problem, but there is a need to be aware of possible atlanto-axial instability (misalignment between the first two vertebrae of the neck, just below the skull) hence care is needed to limit extending the neck.
People with Down's syndrome often have tight heel cords. Yoga movements that stretch the heel cords are very beneficial to people with Down's syndrome. They tend to have weakness, especially in the abdomen with poor core-stability, and limited strength in the shoulders and the hips, as well as the ankles.
Usually they have poor isolation of movement, which is more to do with their awareness of limbs. If you instruct them to move the leg, they can copy you, but if you say 'move the leg', it's the understanding of where the leg is, and to isolate that movement, that is their difficulty. Terms such as 'back', 'other side', 'turn round' are difficult concepts for people with Down's syndrome to understand.
The practice of YOU & ME Yoga Postures will definitely help improve their understanding and improve their performance of the movements in quite a short time. As well as help strengthen their muscles and control of the joints. Needless to say, the most important aspects to teach people with Down's syndrome are: body awareness, spatial awareness, coordination and breath control.
Here is a young man performing his Ostrich, Twist and Lotus Postures.
- The Ostrich helps with progression towards achieving full arm extension. Using a chair to support bending forward assists balance and promotes confidence.
- The Twist Posture is excellent for improving awareness of 'behind'.
- Usually the Lotus Posture is quite easy for persons with Down's syndrome to do, because of their loose hips. The aim for this posture is to sit up straight while focusing on breathing. When sitting back to back with a teacher or a peer the feeling of the breath can be experienced in the partner's back.
Excerpted from the YOU & ME Yoga Modular Programme.