Friday, January 8, 2010

My Little Yogi

I started doing yoga about a year ago. After days of letting the pavement pound my joints, it seemed like a good idea to treat them to a good stretch for at least an hour a week. Although I've really come to love my yoga class, I'm only able to squeeze it in once or twice a week and I am still very much a beginner.

Yoga as exercise (especially to a runner), can be deceiving. This slow-moving, intense movement is not as easy as it looks. As the instructor leads you through a series of poses you are asked to balance, lift, and shift your own body weight, stretch muscles heretofore undiscovered, and redirect blood flow from your legs, head, and arms. I have left one hour of yoga more sore than I've ever been from some of my longest runs. But it's a good, deep, man-I-worked-something-important-today sore. And at the end of each session I feel a serene sense of calm, center, release.

Of course yoga is an ancient practice that has survived through centuries of diets, infomercial gadgets and miracle pills. And if I had any doubt it was built on a study of the body's natural movements and needs, my little yogi has put that doubt to rest.

Over the last few months, McKay has taken to one particular yoga pose: The Downward Facing Dog. I've done my best to capture his yoga prowess in pictures, but he is so unpredictable with it that by the time I grab the camera, he's through. The best I can do for you is this shot from last summer with his physical therapist. He now gets into this position all on his own and we've seen him hold it for up to a minute.

I mentioned his like of this position to his pediatrician at his Synagis appointment on Tuesday--by the way, it's been two weeks since the Rocephin shots and there's no sign of another ear infection!!-- and he grew intensely interested. After a discussion of when and why he might be throwing himself into the downward dog several times a day, he mentioned something to me about "Tet movements."

According to Mac's doc, Tet movements were dubbed so when doctors observed kids with a congenital heart condition called Tetrology of Fallot getting into body positions that promoted increased blood flow or decreased pulmonary pressures. It can be a headstand, a deep squat, anything that opens up arteries and increases blood flow. Interesting, no?

He theorizes that McKay can sense when he needs increased blood flow to the brain or decreased pressure in his pulmonary arteries and so assumes the downward dog position until he feels better. Mac's pressures have always checked out great through echos and a heart cath, so I'm not overly concerned with the new practice. Of course I will discuss all this with McKay's cardiologist, but for now I am absolutely fascinated by the idea and wonder if anyone else has experienced this with their kids.

The additional bonus to Mac's little workout routine is a decidedly stronger upper body and the ability for him to transition from the floor to standing without any assistance. It seems daily yoga is making McKay stronger.

I just thought I'd chronicle this little oddity and ask if other heart families have observed similar behavior in your little ones. Because, hey, if there's enough of us, perhaps we could start a studio. How posh would that be? :) Namaste.


Kyle and Alli said...

Wow. That is incredibly interesting. Grant does not have the physical ability to perform such yoga feats yet, but I will keep checking back in the comments to see if anyone else notices this. Very interesting!

p.s. YAY for no more ear infections!

The Simmons Family said...

That is totally cool! In fact, that is Owen's favorite position!! He can't crawl, or pull to a stand, but he sure can transition from butt scooting to downward dog!

wylie said...

Ok, I don't have any experience to add about yoga experiences with my children BUT I just had to add that McKay looks so cute in that yoga position; his head down, his adorable pudgy arms and strong legs . . . that's all =) nothing scientific.

Stephanie said...

We just bought a Wii fit, and one of the many options is yoga.(btw I agree...I certainly was sore the next day, and felt the pain in muscles that I never knew I had)Anyway, my heart child is 5 and he kept asking me to do the downward dog again. I thought he just liked the name...but who knows, maybe there really is something to be said about these tet movements. Thanks for sharing!

~Stephanie(mommy to Braeden HLHS)

Emily said...


Katie said...

I'm so glad you shared this! I have often wondered if Maddie is just a natural gymnast or what?!? Also being our first girl, I thought maybe it was just "girlie" to always be in a headstand position or hanging backwards off of things like the couch or wanting to hang backwards we're holding her. She's trusting, I know. I don't recall my boys doing this.

I'm now putting 2 and 2 together!!! I do have a few pics of her doing her doing her downward dog too! Crazy. She also sleeps with her knees tucked close to her chest and head down. Maybe that's one of the positions that helps too? Maybe this is why she has such purple tootsies! It's amazing that they do this naturally to help out their little bodies!!!

Keep us posted on what you find out on this!!!

Terry said...

Hmmm, interesting. My son, who is 19 and has a perfectly healthy heart, stood on his head all the time when he was a toddler. On a chair, top of the stairs, in the car, wherever, whenever. I never wondered if there a physiological reason...makes you think.

Whitney said...

He is a guru in EVERY sense of the word. This is fascinating. And inspiring as only McKay can be.

dmg said...

Immediately after I read your blog, I did a google search on yoga and PT and was amazed to find research about how yoga can help children with so many disabilities. I'm still on the hunt for research specifically on CHDs and yoga...
Gracie has never gotten into a yoga position before, but the last two days I've been putting her into the downward dog and she doesn't fight, whine, or scream like she usually does in new or uncomfortable positions. I will be trying more positions with her in the coming weeks.