I have been doing yoga for over twenty years, both on my own and in groups at a studio. When I began, it was almost unheard of and those who did do it saw it as a part of their spiritual practice, along with meditation. I still see my practice in this light. But I have seen a change as yoga’s popularity grows. Over the last several years, yoga classes that incorporate the simplest of yoga accessories for kids of all ages have been springing up in yoga centers, park districts and schools.
In more and more studios you see classes offered specifically for kids, including prenatal classes that evolve after birth to “Mommy and me” classes. Many yogis point to this as a way for increasing the bonds between parent and child, helping to balance a modern life that often includes the mother working out of the home at an early stage in the child’s development. In addition, many of the yoga teachers I work with have told me of new interpretations of this practice being explored for many kids within the structure of their schools. “Yoga helps children develop strong, limber and healthy bodies as well as foster imagination, increase attention span and cultivate self-esteem, says Marsha Wenig, a long time yoga instructor and a pioneering developer of a child-centered yoga teaching called YogaKids. For many schools, yoga has become a useful tool to help with such diverse problems as ADD, helping teenagers by showing them non-destructive methods of control over their changing bodies, and relieving the daily stress that leads to so many behavior disorders in kids today. A growing acceptance of kid’s yoga has also been seen from parents who not only practice yoga themselves, but also see that their children could enjoy it and gain body awareness, coordination, and stress relief. When discussing this new development with many parents in my yoga classes, they have told me that they can see that yoga also helps their children develop strong, flexible and healthy bodies as well as foster imagination, increase attention span and cultivate self-esteem.
Not every type of yoga can be used as yoga for children though. Their requirements are different – their physical bodies, growth rates and metabolism vary greatly from those of adults. This must be taken into consideration when considering kid’s yoga. There are, however, a number of programs created especially for children that showcase the more gentle poses, use simple yoga accessories such as straps and teach breathing exercises. If you cannot find a class nearby or want to introduce your kids to yoga at home as part of your own private practice, there are some excellent specialty children’s videos available online that I have found over time to be very useful. There are even yoga based video games that are educational and introduce very young children to yoga poses in a fun way.
One of the unexpected rewards I have discovered when introducing people to these classes, games and videos is their ability to help self-conscious children become more aware of the things they are capable of doing, improving their physical, general and mental health. It gives them a self-confidence to go on and master other physical activities. Using a simple yoga accessory like a block can give the most awkward child confidence. Other common benefits of yoga for children are maintaining a healthy body and fighting illnesses. For kids who are not good at (or don’t enjoy) conventional sports, yoga may provide a much-needed physical outlet in a noncompetitive environment.
All in all, there are many ways for parents and teachers to use yoga as one more tool for reaching out to their kids. Whether it be for assistance through troubled times, as a way to strengthen the bonds between parents and children or simply a way to give your kids a physical relief for stress from modern life, yoga is an accessory for their life that is certainly for kids too.