Downward Dog (Figure 2.22) is an inversion pose in which the hips are above the heart. This pose increases the blood flow and circulation to the heart. In this pose, the shoulders and arms become both strengthened and opened. The neck is relaxed and hanging, so any tension in the neck is alleviated. The heels are pressing towards the floor and the hamstrings are stretched and elongated. Also, the abdominal muscles are used to stabilize the torso.
This pose requires both arm and leg strength, so it may be difficult for your child at first. However, the pose is beneficial no matter how long it is held, so he should be encouraged to practice this pose and it will gradually become easier.
As the head is hanging upside down, this pose offers him a different view of his environment. You may mention that he should observe how he feels with his head upside down. He can also think about how the world looks in this position.
The positioning of the body in this pose may help a child with ASD, who may be very rigid and restricted about his surroundings, to experiment and become more comfortable with seeing his environment in a different way.
Your child can imagine himself as a dog, stretching awake. He can envision his legs reaching into the ground and his spine and tailbone lengthening into the sky. Although this pose is demanding, his visualization of himself as a dog may help to make the pose more enjoyable.
Your child should be encouraged and praised in this pose and the other strengthening poses to follow, as these poses require perseverance. Once mastered, he will feel a sense ofaccomplishment. In addition, the physical challenges ofthese poses will reduce anxiety and help him expend excess nervous energy.
1. Lay on your belly on your mat and have your arms relaxed by your sides. Legs should be relaxed and head may be turned to the side. Take several breaths before beginning the pose.
2. Put your palms under your shoulders with your elbows pointing up. Make sure the whole hand is pressing into the mat.
3. Take a breath and push into Downward Dog. Push your hips into the air. Your heels should be pressing down toward the mat. Do not worry if your heels do not generally press into the mat. Most people do not have a lot of flexibility in the calves when beginning to practice this pose. The flexibility will build over time.
4. Your abdomen should be firm to help support your torso. Try not to sink into your shoulders or let your lower back sag. There should be a straight line from the hips to the shoulders.
5. Press your hands into the mat to strengthen the arms. Keep the weight of the body even between the legs and arms.
7. As a modification, your child may need you to support his torso until strength is gained (Figure 2.23). In addition, your child may only be able to hold the pose briefly. The idea is to get your child used to the feeling of his body in the pose. The length of time in the pose is not important.
8. After finishing the pose, come down onto the mat on your belly and rest for a breath. Come into Mountain Pose at the front of the mat to prepare for the next pose.
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