We’re happy to be a part of the Kids Love Yoga series with our friend Giselle from Kids Yoga Stories! Each month, she will be featuring a new yoga pose, including pictures of children from around the world practicing the pose! At The Inspired Treehouse, we’ll be showcasing the developmental and therapeutic benefits of each pose in the series.
We frequently use yoga for kids in our therapy sessions because it’s a great tool for addressing a variety of developmental issues. Yoga can be used as a calming approach to target attention and behavior or it can be used with kids to focus on coordination, balance, and strengthening. One of our favorite yoga poses to use in therapy tends to be a kid favorite too – Downward Dog. For yogis, coming into Downward Dog is kind of like coming back home. It is one of the most frequently used poses in yoga because it targets so many areas of the body and so many skills at once. Read on to find out why Downward Dog for kids is a tried and true pose for pediatric therapists and yogis alike!
Strengthening: Downward Dog is the perfect position for kids to bear weight on their hands. This is great for promoting strength in the shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers, leading to better accuracy and control with handwriting, cutting with scissors and developing efficient grasp patterns. The legs are also strong and engaged in this pose – a great whole-body workout!
Proprioception: Our joints and muscles provide us with information about how our body parts are moving and about how much force we are using in our movements. This is called proprioception. In Downward Dog, kids get firm, steady impact to their wrist, elbow, shoulder, knee, and ankle joints – great for learning to regulate the force and accuracy of their movements.
Vestibular Input: Going upside down isn’t just fun – it’s also a great opportunity for a child to exercise his Vestibular System. The vestibular sense has to do with balance and movement and relates to how our heads and bodies are positioned in space. Downward Dog gives kids a chance to experiment with being upside down, learning how to maintain balance and stability in a different position.
Flexibility: Downward Dog is the perfect pose for promoting all-over flexibility. In this one simple position, kids are getting a great stretch for their shoulders, backs, hamstrings, and gastrocnemius (calf) muscles.
WHAT TO DO:
Have the child start in all fours on the floor or a mat. Show him how to tuck his toes under, pulling his bottom up into the air and pushing his arms straight. His head should drop, so he’s looking toward his feet.
HOW TO CHANGE IT UP:
-Make a bridge! One child positions himself in Downward Dog, while another child crawls through! Kids can drive toy cars under the bridge or have stuffed animals take a stroll through! Try making the bridge higher by doing the pose on two stools or between the coffee table and the couch (with supervision of course!).
-Try playing “London Bridge”. One child acts as the “bridge” in Downward Dog on the floor. Another child crawls through. See if he can get through before the “bridge” falls down (the child lowers himself toward the ground).
-Instead of a dog, pretend to be an inchworm! Start in Downward Dog. Walk the feet forward to meet the hands. Then, walk the hands forward away from the feet (back into Downward Dog). Repeat and see how far your inchworm can crawl this way!