Ana Young is a children’s yoga teacher and mum of two yoginis, aged 2 and 5. She is a passionate yogista and runs children’s yoga classes in Southern Spain. Ana’s children’s yoga book ‘MoreYoginis’ is available online.
Most of the times yoga for children can seem unnecessary. After all, they are children, they should not have any problems with stretching, their lives are not as stressful as those of adults, and it would probably be difficult to get children interested in a yoga routine. However, scientific research has proven that logic wrong.
Yoga is not just transforming adults today. The reality is that our children live in a fast speed world of busy parents, school pressures, video games, malls, and competitive sports. We are usually not fully aware of these influences as stressful for our kids, but often they are. They may benefit from stress-relieving practices meant to calm the mind and release physical tension such as yoga.
Children can obtain enormous benefits from yoga. Physically, it enhances their flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness. In addition, their concentration and sense of calmness and relaxation improves. Doing yoga, children exercise, play, connect more deeply with the inner self, and develop an intimate relationship with the natural world that surrounds them. Indeed, when yogis developed the asanas (poses) many thousands of years ago, they look into the natural world and used animals and plants for inspiration””the power of a lion, the grace of lotus flower, the grandiosity of an eagle. Children love to assume the role of animals, trees, flowers, warriors. When they stretch like a cat, balance like a tree, or stand strong like a mountain, they are making a connection between the universe that surrounds them and the microcosm of their bodies. Children begin to understand that we are all made of the same matter but in different forms.
In addition, meditation for children is another tool we can give them from a very young age and it will aid them for the rest of their lives. It will help them handle whatever life might throw at them, minimizing stress, anxiety, frustration, fear, anger and such feelings.
Throughout this process, a key factor would be that as parents we learn yoga and meditation and transmit their principles into our homes. Children absorb the energy of the environment. If as parents, we practice some form of self-development, our children will grow up in a healthier, more relaxed and aware environment.
One of the meditation techniques that can be used with children under the age of 6/7 is, for example, a relaxation practice in the Corpse Pose (Savasana); in this pose we could work with awareness of larger parts. For example, we could playfully instruct the child in body awareness by saying, “Imagine you lying under a warm sun, in the grass until I count to 10. Now bend your elbows and now straighten your arms.” We could give similar instructions with the legs and may ask them to wiggle their toes, and so on. This takes their awareness through the body. Once children have developed a little body awareness, we can teach them to listen to outside sounds, to emit sounds, or to visualize imaginary scenes.
All of us, children and not so children, are body, mind and spirit. Yoga unites these three forces, and by uniting and balancing them children can learn to be happier, more focused, more conscious… The practice of yoga allows children to connect with themselves, their bodies, their mind… Most of the children have never been taught to relax, to feel his breath. If we give them those tools now, they will grow with them and this will make them more focused people who know who they are, what they need and how to deal with problems in the future. In addition, yoga helps tremendously with integration as they practice the asanas and awareness activities in which we are all equal. So yoga can help our children when there are imbalances in any of the three forces and lead them to a healthier lifestyle.
The Child’s Way
With all this in mind, the greatest challenge with children is to hold their attention long enough to teach them the benefits of these two areas, yoga and meditation; however, by using different tools you could guide them into the practice. A Yoga book for kids like MOREYOGINIS can help the parents to be visual facilitators of the asanas. As parents, our role is to guide them through the poses and step back, allowing them to bark in the dog pose, roar as a lion, and meow in cat stretch. Sharing the practice with our children has mutual benefits, as it is an opportunity to have a fun time, share emotions and grow together!
Tree pose: stand strong on only one leg, you are like a lush green tree and your arm are the branches! Repeat with the other leg.
Lion pose: sit back on your heels, lean forward and place your hands on the ground; open your mouth wide and roar!!!
Downward facing dog: as a playful puppy, get on all fours, bottom up, straightening out arms and legs.