KIDS YOGA – Why?
by Thy Nguyen, Kids’ Yoga Fairy
— Join us for FAM YAM YOGA on the 23rd of July! —
Believe it or not, it’s hard to be a kid these days. You may not understand this unless you have one. I don’t yet, but I know enough parents, and have taught enough kids from pre-school through to high school to know that it’s not all fun and games.
With increasing technology, the prevalence of smartphones and tablets – including easy exposure to social media, children face more distractions and overstimulation than ever before, on top the usual peer and parental pressures. Yoga can help to counter these pressures and stress and is as beneficial for kids as it is for us adults! Unlike, adult yoga though, kids’ yoga incorporates yoga poses and breath work though games, music and dance, storytelling and guided visualisations. It’s playful and fun, keeping them engaged and attentive in a non-competitive, positive and supported space.
Here are some of the many benefits of yoga for kids:
- develops body awareness
- learn how to use their bodies in a healthy way
- becoming aware of breathing its effects
- builds self-confidence, increases self-esteem
- improves focus and concentration
- increases balance and coordination
- cultivates creativity and imagination
- helps them relax and find calm
- introduces them to meditation through guided visualisations
- teaches them to respect and care for their bodies
Here’s what I often teach to kids in classes:
I want kids to feel how I do about yoga – that it’s FUN! Stereotypes of yoga abound and many of us know children pick up what they see and hear around them, so for most kids, the idea of yoga is that it’s really slow (=boring to them), or sitting cross-legged all day or ‘OM’-ing. I want them to experience and learn that yoga is an awesome time to play, move, make sounds and explore things they’re naturally drawn too – and I may still sneakily slide in some of those stereotypes and they will love it all!
Awareness of the breath
Breathing exercises can energise or encourage relaxation, depending on what I choose to teach. Different games, animal sounds and mimicking nature are just a few techniques I use to help kids connect to how their bodies feel as a result of the various types of breath.
Balancing poses teach children that to slow down and focus, which increases attention naturally, even in kids who struggle with different attention exercises. Poses and games focused on balancing skills, develop an intrinsic strength, evoke a meditative feeling, and promote stillness and quieting of the mind. This can help kids deal with the stress of living in a busy world where constant stimulation is a regular part of life.
Stretching and lengthening
This is a great opportunity for me to talk to the children about how yoga balances the whole body. We discuss that strength is important, but we also need to stretch and open the body so we don’t get injured in other activities we like to do (for them – gymnastics, soccer, etc). Good to know for us adults: strong muscles that are not supported by a flexibility cannot move quickly and may pull on bones and joints in certain movements. Yoga helps stretch muscles and through integrating breathing and movement, muscles become warm and more flexible. They can yield when they need to, and support tender joints in a more functional way.
Kids often know that yoga is great for relaxing and stretching, but don’t often realise it builds strength too. I talk about the different muscles used in poses and incorporate strength work in games and sequences where I can, to help build strength as well as body awareness and coordination. Bodies that are strong digest food better, maintain a healthy weight and can support the stress of carrying heavy loads, like a backpack. Breath awareness is increased and the body works more efficiently.
Focus and self-respect
Yoga helps create awareness in the body through deep breathing and movement. In my yoga classes, the children have a space for and are allowed to express themselves, build a strong connection between what they hear, see and do. Children that have healthy body awareness are more confident and strong, have better posture and are more resilient.
Meditation and relaxation
Yoga is meditative by nature. So whether a child is holding a balancing posture, or sitting and breathing, or moving through a series of poses, there’s going to be a calming, soothing quality. I like to guide them through a visualisation during savasana, or play a singing bowl and tell them a story, this really helps them stay at ease as they use their imagination to follow my words.
I love teaching kids – they are so present and so honest. I learn so much from them. After working with a class of children for a few weeks, it is remarkable to see the difference in their bodies, thought processes and ability to self-regulate. Even within the space of a class, from start to finish there are noticeable energy arcs that occur as I take them through different poses, games and exercises. I’ve experienced the bountiful benefits yoga has had on me and have been so lucky to see first hand the incredible effect yoga has on youngsters. It just makes so much sense. Could you imagine a world where all kids were taught yoga in schools? I can, and it’s looking to be a bright and peaceful future.
Join us for FAM YAM YOGA on the 23rd of July!