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My Little Yogi

Posted Jan 08 2010 12:00am

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.

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