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Why I Love Doing Yoga With My Daughter With Down Syndrome

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At the end of 2017 I was searching for a mommy and me style yoga class, but everything in our area was for pre-walkers or ages 4+. A few days later, a post popped up on my Facebook feed for a two day children’s yoga & mindfulness yoga teacher training. What started as curiosity turned into six weekends of trainings, all thanks to Facebook stalking my Google searches. I learned more than I ever expected, met some amazing people, and was pushed outside of my comfort zone. But the best part has been including Hannah in this journey.

I didn’t have a plan when I walked into that first training in March, besides a vague idea of yoga playdates with Hannah’s preschool/daycare friends or within our Down syndrome community. I knew Hannah had been introduced to some sort of yoga or “movement” at school, because she randomly popped into three-legged dog during a shopping trip. if anything else, I could learn some new activities to do with her at home. I never would have guessed that day one of training would spark an interest that would turn into an all-out wildfire in my soul by the end of day two.

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The beauty of yoga is that it’s a “come as you are” party — even more so when kids are involved. As a parent or caregiver, how often do you apologize that your children are cranky because you turned off the TV, they didn’t get the cup they wanted or because they had to wear a shirt? It’s OK if your child shows up in a bad mood. It’s OK if your child is utterly overwhelmed by the new people and place. It’s OK if your child runs around in circles and laughs the whole time or chooses not to participate and watches for the entire class. It’s OK if your child performs every pose wonderfully or struggles with balance or coordination. It’s OK… as long as you show up. That’s really the only requirement for yoga.

My goal is to make it easy for parents and their children of all ages and abilities, to show up. I strive to create an opportunity for children to participate in a physical activity, connect with their peers, stretch their imaginations and build confidence. That’s far easier to do when there’s no pressure from coaches or teammates, no clock counting down, and no points awarded to those who have the most skill. There’s no competition, no judgement, no stress. And while I work on that creation, I’m able to test it out with Hannah.

There are days when Hannah is pumped to see her yoga friends, showing off all the poses she knows before we leave the house, but is worn out and uninterested once we get to class. She’ll stare at me like a bored teenager and not participate until relaxation time, reminding me to be quiet. Then she sings our “welcome song” the whole ride home, naming the other kids from class because she was present enough to know who else showed up.

Some days she’s so eager that she unpacks my bag as soon as we walk in, knowing what I will need for class and what the kiddos can play with before we start. She hands me the chime and bluetooth speaker before toddling off with a bag of scarves or felt squares. When other kids arrive, Hannah shares the toys and props and laughs with them as they play.

But most days she lights up the room with a smile that shouts, “Look, I can do it!”

During a recent class I played a movement-based song that we’ve listened to at home and I thought Hannah’s eye were going to pop out of her head when she heard the first few notes. She led the class for those 3 minutes and I have never seen her more confident.

The teacher trainings have also helped me be a more patient and understanding mother, learning to respond instead of react. No matter what Hannah’s mood is, my job is to acknowledge how she’s feeling and support her. Using the tools I’ve learned, I can practice my own self-regulation and teach Hannah in the process. When I catch her doing “deep breafs” I know we’re on the right track.

Getty image by DenKuvaiev

Originally published: February 15, 2019
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