Catch Them Young

I have big yoga dreams. I call them dreams right now because they are still in that state, before they become actual plans, ready to be realised.

Ante natal yoga, yoga for men who can’t touch their toes, yoga for the elderly, yoga in hospices, yoga for women with bodies like mine – with boobs and bums that don’t always help your cause when it comes to trying to get into some asanas – I could go on and on about the endless possibilities or marrying a passion with a living. After all, who doesn’t need yoga in their lives? Everyone needs yoga – there are just a lot of people out there who don’t know it yet.

And of course – yoga for kids. Yoga for kids is particularly exciting for a number of reasons – here are some:

  1. I feel blessed to have had the chance to start my own yoga journey very early in life. It has always been something wonderful that I can use and rely on.
  2. Yoga has unexpected side benefits – if you start young and keep practicing (even if in a haphazard and intermittent way) you help your body stay flexible – this is always useful but it really comes in handy as you start to feel time ticking and aging starts in earnest. It also helps when you backpacking and someone introduces the cornflake game….
  3. Yoga gives you the ability to keep centred and focus on what is important. “If you can keep your head when all around you are losing theirs….” This is surely something every parent wants their child to have, and yoga can help them get there.
  4. Yoga helps you learn that there is no good or bad – it is just perception. So choose your perception. Again – kids can really benefit from learning this early in life (so can adults!).
  5. I love my kids – I would love for them to love yoga as much as I do.

Despite my “reunited with yoga” excitement (after starting the course) I have been also been trying to do all the things I usually do – three kids, various pets, and old house to look after, a stressed husband, making sure we have food in the house, school run, end of year socials with various groups, planning a charity event, trying to organise our plans for next year and blah blah blah. I didn’t think that I was being particularly communicative about what was happening with yoga with my kids but it appears that they have picked up on things, as kids do.

First, I came into the room where I usually study to find my chair cushions on the floor. My head was full of asanas and class plans so I put them back and didn’t think anything more of it. The next day – the same thing.

All of a sudden my 8-year-old daughter walks in and does a headstand – using the strategically placed cushions. My 10-year-old son walks in and of course wants to join in the fun. Tonight – the same thing. It’s a headstand party. So then we have a play with Pincha Mayurasana – they especially like it when I fall on my head (still just beginning my Pincha journey!) – they want to do more and they love being instructed. My daughter informs me that she has been doing that funny breathing thing and practicing her headstands morning and evening!

I am so excited that my kids are excited about yoga. Of course sirsasana looks fun and that makes them interested. But I hadn’t realised that when they sleepily walked past me in the morning when doing my morning kriya they were noticing what I did. That they overhear me telling friends how amazing the course is and how much I love being lucky enough to be doing it. That they know my plans post course involved setting up some small group classes at home. That I get up and go out in the morning before anyone else and that Daddy is now doing the school run. If nothing else I will make sure that my kids learn about yoga because it is an amazing gift to give them.

If I can get their father to touch his toes they will be even more amazed!

Yoga is beneficial to kids in many ways. Because just like adult children also encounter emotional, social, and physical challenges or conflicts, a dedicated and intentional yoga practice that includes pranayama, philosophy, and asana can be incredibly valuable for them. Yoga is something children can practice anywhere and the breathing, the concentration, the poses, and the way kids learn to act or react to situations, will lead to constant self-discovery and inquisitiveness. Plus, yoga is portable, and no mat, special clothing, or special pillow is absolutely necessary.

Learning about ahimsa, satya, moderation, cleanliness, gratitude, and self-discipline can only be helpful, however young or old you are. No?

According to Shana Meyerson of miniyogis.com, there are five areas where kids benefit from the practice of yoga:

It Enhances Physical Flexibility Yoga promotes physical strength because kids learn to use all of their muscles in new ways. Whether a pose is done standing, sitting, or lying down, each one can challenge various muscle groups while helping a child become aware of his body and how it efficiently functions.

It Refines Balance and Coordination Balance is a key element of yoga. Balancing poses were created to promote mental and physical poise, as mental clarity and stability emerge from the effort of trying the poses. Even if a child has difficulty standing on one foot, she learns mental and physical balance if she can stay calm when she falls and when she gets up to try again. As children learn to improve their physical balance, they will be filled with a sense of accomplishment. Coordination is also closely tied to balance and promotes overall dexterity. Some yoga teachers and occupational therapists use finger yoga and other specialized techniques to help children with gross and fine motor coordination.

It Develops Focus and Concentration The act of practicing poses encourages children to clear their mind and focus on the effort. As a result of this single focus to achieve a particular pose or stay balanced, yoga helps children to focus and concentrate in school and get better grades, several studies note.

It Boosts Self-Esteem and Confidence Yoga helps to instill confidence and to bring learning to children on an experiential level, it teaches them to persevere, be patient, and work toward their goals. A yoga teacher can only offer guidance; it is the child who has to work to succeed. Therefore, when a child masters a pose, it gives them confidence and self-esteem.

It Strengthens the Mind-Body Connection Yoga helps kids achieve a sound mind in a sound body by exercising the physical body and calming the mental spirit.

Yoga is beneficial to children of all ages, but it has been found to be particularly so for kids with special needs. Studies have shown that yoga benefits children with autism and ADHD – which is not surprising and it is slowly making its way into mainstream schools.

So whether I end up working with kids and yoga or not – if you have any in your life – your own, nephews, nieces, friend’s kids. Introduce them to yoga – I am sure they will thank you for it when they are older and it may improve their lives immeasurably.

 

Caramaya. 200Hr TT