What is the benefit of yoga for children?
Today’s children are being born with an incredible amount of energy vibrating at a high frequency. While this is indeed necessary to heal and change our world, these children often do not have the life skills or tools to help them direct or manage this energy. They live in a world of incessant stimulation, with continuously distracting factors such as online gaming, multimedia advertising and peer one-upmanship vying for their attention at any given moment.
We can see the effects of high-frequency energy and super-sensitivity incorrectly channeled all around us. There has been an increase in the number of children suffering from sensorial dysfunction, ADD/ADHD, learning difficulties, dyspraxia, dyslexia, low and high muscle tone and autism, to name a few. Children are becoming more and more conscious, with media-provoked body issues surfacing far earlier than we’d care to admit, and depression and anxiety becoming more and more prevalent.
Yoga, Yoga Therapy and mindfulness and wellbeing practices can help our children to counter these stressors, as they create the “download” or process time necessary to put their sensory world into perspective. These powerful practices allow children to easily change state, learning how to move into a place of peacefulness, balance and calm at will.
Compelling recent research has actually proven that yoga enables children to channel their energy in more creative and constructive ways. It also encourages self-esteem and self-awareness and fosters cooperation and compassion. It goes without saying that when children learn techniques for relaxation and inner fulfillment, they can more easily navigate life’s challenges.
5 Poses that are beneficial to children.
- Stand up straight with your arms hanging gently at your sides.
- Shift your weight into your right leg.
- Place your left foot against your right calf or inner thigh (never on the knee!).
- Slowly lift your arms up into prayer position, or high above you like the branches of a tree.
- Keep your belly strong and your eyes focused ahead of you.
- Repeat on the other leg.
- Stimulates the left and right hemispheres of the brain
- Trains focus and balance
- Stretches the upper body
- Come onto all fours, with your hands directly under your shouldersyou’re your knees under your hips. Your palms are pushed into the floor and your fingers are wide. Keep your feet parallel behind you.
- Breathe in and point your nose up to the sky, making a deep arch with your back and meowing like a kitty cat.
- Tuck your tummy, round your back, tuck your chin and moo like a cow.
- Repeat as often as you like.
- Increases spine flexibility
- Releases tension in the back
- Sit upright on your haunches.
- Put your palms together, bending your back to close your wings.
- Make your eyes wide and slowly move your head from side to side.
- Strengthens legs
- Improves balance and focus
Downward Dog Pose
- Come onto all fours and breathe in.
- As you breathe out, lift your ‘tail’ (hips) toward the sky, straightening your arms and legs to create a triangle shape with your body.
- Stay here for as long as you like, taking nice deep breaths.
- Strengthens the upper arms
- Aligns the spine
- Sit up straight with your legs forming a diamond shape in front of you and the soles of your feet touching.
- Bend forward and slide your forearms under your shins.
- Rest your forehead on your feet, and enjoy the relaxing feeling of being safe and alone.
- Stretches the spine
- Encourages flexibility in the hips
- Quiets the mind
What is the best age to start practising yoga?
Children of all ages can do yoga. Babies can start from as early as six weeks to encourage body awareness and bonding with mom. Yoga supports babies in the developmental steps that lead to walking. Yoga is also great for toddlers, provided it’s modified for their quick-moving bodies and minds. Older kids can do yoga in a playful way, with more detail added to poses. Tween classes can then involve more depth, and cover topics like anatomy and meditation.
What are the advantages of practising yoga in the morning and evening?
A typical children’s yoga class will always begin with a bit of quiet reflection time and heart opening meditations to allow the child to move to a place where they are able to reflect on the magnitude of their being and receive the maximum benefit of the teachings of the yoga class. The teacher will direct participants into a dignified and still seated pose and introduce a series of meditative breathing exercises. These simple mindful practices help to centre the children, allowing them to focus inward and become aware of the present moment with gentleness and non-judgment. They also serve to direct the energy down into the body, from where it can then be managed and directed by the yoga postures that follow. In yoga we believe that the body and the mind are inextricably connected, so the actual poses wake up the often stagnant or frustrated energy, getting rid of the excess and allowing the rest to flow in a way that helps them to develop better body awareness, strength and flexibility; build balance and co-ordination; tone internal organs; and promote an overall sense of wellbeing, both physical and psycho-spiritual.
Any last words?
This article was written by Suzie Manson – a Senior Yoga Teacher accredited with the Yoga Teachers Fellowship nationally and the Yoga Alliance abroad. She is the founder of Yoga4Kids, which has been offering children’s yoga classes since 2003 and children’s yoga teacher training since 2006. Suzie also founded the Yoga4Kids Foundation in 2016 to offer free classes to child and youth care centres throughout South Africa. For more information or to attend a Yoga4Kids children’s vocational training, visit www.yoga4kids.co.za or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.