Today, yoga has caught on with adults, and all have realized the emotional and health benefits of yoga. However, the importance of teaching yoga to children is still not fully understood. If yoga can help with issues such as stress reduction, mind-body connection, and physical strength in adults, it will also benefit children. If not for all this, yoga can at least be a gentle method for kids to get more physical activity and improve his or her well-being.
Being the only non-competitive sports available, kids from newborns to teenagers can learn poses such as dog pose and sun salutation either in kids’ yoga centres or even in their schools.
Although kids and adult yoga classes are very different, the foundation still remains the same. There is still the mind-body connection that is the foundation of all yoga. However, in kids yoga there is lot of creativity and playfulness involved, say experts.
Why should kids learn yoga?
When kids are asked to perform yoga poses using visualization and allowing them to move their bodies, their whole learning ability grows manifold. It also teaches them to control their energy, so that they can focus better, say yoga experts.
Moreover, with kids being stressed these days due to social pressures and pressure in school, yoga helps them relax and unwind.
Various researches and studies have reported that yoga can calm children, reduce obesity, improve concentration, help in managing certain specific health conditions such as headaches and irritable bowel syndrome. It has also been reported that yoga can help children with eating disorders to lessen their preoccupation with food, and benefit children with various mental and physical disabilities.
When choosing an instructor
If your child is interested in taking a yoga class, look for a program taught by an instructor who has been training in yoga for children, check the instructor’s experience with your child’s age group and goal of the class prior to registration to see whether you are comfortable about the activities involved, the instructor’s style, the class size and the environment. Most importantly, if your child has a medical condition or special needs, ensure to keep the instructor informed and ask about their ability to work with your child.
A typical yoga session for children
A typical yoga class for children may begin with warm-up sessions and breathing exercises. As for postures, it will involve only gentle movements such as stretching, standing, sitting, twisting, balancing and bending. During each posture, the child may be reminded to breathe through his or her nose and to avoid forcing a position. After a series of poses, the child may be asked to lie down on the floor on his/her back and close his/her eyes and visualize relaxing experiences such as lying on a cloud or floating through the sky. As the session ends, the child may be made to go through the re-awakening process, to rise from the floor.
Ashtanga yoga and Bikram yoga are not generally recommended for children.
Safety aspects to be considered
There are some specific safety aspects to be followed by children during their yoga sessions to help prevent them from injuries. First of all, find a safe place to practice yoga. The ground should be a levelled one with a comfortable room temperature. Use a clean mat to prevent slipping. Practice on empty stomach only. Certain poses can induce vomiting if performed on a full stomach. To be on the safe side, do not allow your child to practice yoga until two to four hours after a large meal, or one to two hours after a light meal or a snack.
Ensure that children do not overdo the postures. They need to be constantly reminded to keep their movements slow and to avoid forcing a pose or doing inverted poses that involve extending their legs above the head or heart, or inverted poses that put pressure on head, neck or shoulders. For instance, a child with migraine or any condition affected by extra pressure to the head or neck, should avoid shoulder stands. Also do not allow your child to do yoga if he/she is sick.
After having realized the huge influence and benefits of yoga in all-round development of children, it is high-time that yoga gets incorporated as part of student’s school curriculum.