About Yoga and Your Child

Many children in today’s world do not get sufficient physical exercise to ensure a good level of health and a feeling of well being. It can be difficult for children to get the exercise they need in a natural, healthy and enjoyable way. Instead of being full of vitality with strong flexible bodies, many youngsters are lacking in vital energy; their bodies stiff and tense, their breath restricted and their posture generally poor.

Poor postural habits have often developed because modern children have not had the necessary environment and conditions to enable them to retain their natural graceful posture and ability to use their bodies well. This is often caused or exacerbated by unnatural living conditions and requirements placed upon them. They are, for example required to sit for long periods in chairs or in uncomfortable conditions and positions which do not help them to use their bodies correctly. Poor posture adversely affects the general functioning of the body and in particular the breath which will generally be restricted.

With limited opportunity, encouragement and incentive to stretch and use their bodies physically their general health may be adversely affected, so that performance in all areas of their lives is reduced.

In addition to these physical considerations children may have difficulty concentrating and have poor attention spans. The mind can become tense and dull, often as a result of being over-stimulated by the fast pace and pressing input of modern life. Added to this can be too many demands placed upon them, possibly age inappropriate as well as excessive computer and television viewing and general noise. Many children are bombarded with information and stimulation so that they are mentally overloaded. This can interfere with their ability to rest and relax as well as to concentrate and pay attention to a particular task.

Yoga can provide real help and the provision of practices to readdress the balance. Practice of the physical ensures that the child is moving, stretching and working all parts of the body. The body is strengthened and firmed without overdeveloping the muscles and at the same time the internal organs are massaged and toned. In addition all the systems of the body; circulation, respiration etc are stimulated enabling the body to function efficiently and encouraging peak health.

As well as keeping the body strong and supple yoga practice also incorporates practices that help the child to develop attention, concentration and to stimulate creative abilities. Balance and coordination are improved. Regular practice helps the child to become more settled within, more relaxed and calm so that she/he is able to be alert and relaxed at the same time. The ability to be still and quiet when this is required may also be developed.

Yoga practice is suitable for any individual, no matter what their present condition. It is absolutely non-competitive since each person works in accordance with their own capacity. The practice is gentle and not performance orientated, there is no place for winning or losing. The child simply learns enjoyable ways of moving the body and feeling good about it.

The system of yoga does not create a situation where children feel inferior or superior, inadequate or exceptional, since the emphasis is on a feeling awareness, how you ‘feel’ when moving the body or holding a posture. It is in this way inward directed. Every child can succeed because every child can ‘feel’ and have an inner experience. This way of experiencing can become stronger and develops a way of experiencing that can be helpful to the child in many ways.

In the yoga class the children will be instructed to perform the physical postures to their individual capacity. Many of the positions resemble animal forms and movements and are named accordingly so for example we have the cat stretch, the dog, the cobra. Others are named according to the shape they make as in Bridge and still others because of the sound that is made as in the lion. The practice is structured to be fun and enjoyable at the same time as ensuring that quality work is done in order to have the desired effect.

As well as performing physically the children will also experience being still. They learn to observe and ‘feel’ the body in stillness, to watch the movement of their breath, like the waves of the sea, and to imagine various peaceful scenes from nature to help their minds and bodies relax and let go of tensions.