Sphinx Pose (Figure 2.31) is the first back bending pose. It begins to open the chest slightly. It will also get your child used to the feeling of back bending. The arms extend in front of the body, rather than upwards, so the opening of the chest does not feel extreme. The idea is that the spine and chest are elongated and opened. It is important to make sure that your child is not compressing his lower back as he opens his chest. Additionally, the neck should not be bent backward. Rather, the head should face forward to get a long opening in the neck.
This pose is helpful for children with ASDs for several reasons. First, on a physical level, the back bending helps individuals lessen tension in the back, shoulders, and neck. It also stretches muscles that are normally not used, thus strengthening and releasing these muscles.
On an emotional level, as with other poses, this pose helps your child experiment with new physical sensations in a comfortable and secure environment. As children with ASDs are often resistant to change, this pose may help your child begin to learn that change and doing new activities may be fun and feel good. Additionally, your child may learn that although the new circumstance may feel intimidating, once your child is brave enough to try, the experience may begin to feel comfortable.
Children can understand the idea of being like a sphinx in this pose. We usually do not explain the idea of back bending to children because it may be too overwhelming for them to understand. Even adults who have practiced yoga for quite a while have difficulty with backbends because the movement is different and foreign and feels unnatural when it is first practiced.
You may tell your child that his head should be straight and comfortable and that he should gaze softly ahead, like a sphinx. Let him know that the sphinx is serene yet powerful and that is how he can think of himself in this pose.
1. Come onto your belly on your mat. Your body should be relaxed and your arms should be by your side.
3. Keeping your forearms pressing into the mat, slowly raise your head and shoulders off the mat as far as is comfortable.
4. Your gaze should be straight ahead and not upward.
5. Your legs should be straight behind you, with your ankles together. If this is uncomfortable, allow your legs to be up to eight inches apart.
6. You may concentrate on lifting out of the spine and the chest. The idea is to open the upper chest and back. Your child may visualize his heart coming out of a cave as his chest expands.
7. Your breathing should be smooth and deep. Stay in this position for three breaths and come down onto your belly to release the pose. Then, come into Child's Pose for a few breaths before going into the next pose.
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