Down syndrome is a congenital disability with an overall incidence of one in every 700 births. The incidence of Down syndrome in children born to 25 year old mothers is approximately 1 in 1200; the risk increases to approximately 1 in 350 for 35 year olds and approximately 1 in 120 for women older than 40 years. The chromosomal abnormality involved in most cases of Down syndrome is trisomy 21. As a result, the affected person has 47 chromosomes in all body cells, instead of the normal 46.
Persons with Down syndrome are shorter than average, with truncated limbs. Some other common characteristics of Down syndrome include an epicanthic fold of skin extending from the eyelid over the inner canthus of the eye, strabismus (crossed eyes) and hypotonia (low muscle tone). Motor development is slow; and instead of walking by 12 to 14 months as most children do, children with Down syndrome usually learn to walk between 15 to 36 months. Language and cognitive development are also significantly delayed. The majority of children with Down syndrome function in the mild to moderate range of mental retardation. In addition to these delays, children with Down syndrome are also susceptible to certain medical problems, including: congenital heart defects; increased susceptibility to infection; respiratory problems; obstructed digestive tracts and childhood leukemia.
Yoga poses (asanas) help to stretch, tone and strengthen the entire body. Asanas also benefit the internal organs and help to balance and revitalize the endocrine glands. For this reason children with Down syndrome who practice Yoga stay slim and flexible, while those who do not practice Yoga tend to put on weight as they age. In conjunction with yogic breathing exercises, which have a beneficial effect on the central nervous system, asanas facilitate the development of body awareness, concentration and memory -- vital skills for any child with a developmental disability.