At the end of last week, my sister gave birth to her second child - my first nephew. In honor of his arrival, I decided to make the theme of today’s post about children, and how yoga can be so incredibly beneficial for them.
The base theme of any yoga practice is relaxation, becoming centered with yourself and your mind, slowing down your thoughts and taking time to focus on your body. Since beginning my practice, I find that yoga has helped me to improve a number of things… it provides me with a quiet, and calm place to take my mind for an hour a day. It helps me build strength, have more confidence in myself and improves my flexibility.
It teaches me patience, because it takes more than my first, or second (sometimes even third) try to be able to properly hold the stance of some more difficult poses. I find that I inherently try to eat better now, because if I’m putting in the effort to improve my body physically I don’t want to ruin the progress by eating poorly. It helps me to laugh at myself, and not take myself too seriously when I can’t perfect a move right away, while also inspiring me to continue trying. (because I so desperately want to be able to do cool poses.)
If yoga inspires all of that in an adult, can you imagine how helpful it might be for a child, someone who already inherently doesn’t take him or herself very seriously and just wants to have fun?
As adults, to hear that children lead stressful lives is something we might scoff at. I know personally, I often think I would love to be back in their positions, with seemingly nothing to worry about.
What I don’t necessarily think about is this - things have changed for younger generations. In an article found on handtohold.org, author Laura Romero, a family support navigator, explains the stresses that children face by categorizing age groups.
Three year olds crave stability and predictability, four year olds begin to develop feelings of insecurity, five year olds begin school, six year olds face meeting expectations of parents and competition from peers. Seven year olds can be moody, pensive and unhappy, eight year olds become insecure about their appearances and ability to perform, the nine year old starts to become rebellious and then the 10-18 gap begins to experience puberty, the stresses related to school, growing up, and peer pressures.
Suddenly, being in my 20s sounds much more appealing. It’s hard to imagine that by age 4 children are already facing feelings of insecurity, and I can’t help but to assume that the age of technology is playing a major role in the feelings of competition and self-esteem. Romero ends her article by emphasizing the importance of play. She writes, “children of all ages process their emotions by play,” and need these opportunities to work out their worries and concerns.
This is exactly why yoga can be such a beneficial practice for children.
Exercise is an incredibly important way that children manage stress. Unfortunately, some exercise for children can encourage attitudes that some parents don’t wish to expose their children too: Competition, and along with it the feelings that they haven’t done well enough, or need to do better than another child to succeed. Some sports can include unnecessary violence, which some parents don’t wish to subject their children to.
Yoga encourages physical strength while remaining a stress-free environment. Kids never have to worry about being picked last, being slow or having a fear of failure. Their coordination, balance and flexibility also improves immensely.
Children never have to worry about being wrong or doing something incorrectly while practicing yoga, they’re just having fun and trying their best. When a child succeeds in a pose, it instills confidence in them.
Yoga helps to promote body awareness, without making your child body conscious. A huge component of yoga is learning about your body and how each part is essential to the practice of yoga. Kids learn about their muscles, joints, their hearts and lungs to their toes and their fingers. Everything on our body has a purpose, and for that reason children are taught to treat everything on their bodies well.
Respect and Creativity
Yoga promotes a calm and peaceful setting. It teaches values of kindness, and encourages children to be respectful of one another. It helps children exercise a calm mind and to have compassion with the world around them. It makes them feel connected to more than just themselves; they become more in tune with nature and animals.
In an article found in YogaJournal, Dr. Howard Garder, an author and professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, describes eight intelligences innate in all of us: linguistic, logical, visual, musical, kinesthetic, naturalistic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.
Garder emphasizes that children should be given the opportunity to develop and embody as many of these as possible; all of which can be achieved through the practice of yoga.
Yoga At Home
Telling children how to think, act and learn does nothing for actually helping them to discover and shape the world around themselves. It’s important to know that a child’s imagination will likely shine through during their yoga practice. I wouldn’t expect a quiet practice with an 8 year old… instead, expect that your child will jump at the chance to ribbit like a frog during the Frog Pose, bark like a dog during Downward Dog, or hiss while doing Cobra. This imagination is something you should take full advantage of. Teach your child about animals, the environment and feed the curiosity and wonder that they have.
This can be such a fun learning and growing experience for you and your little one! Are you running off to buy your child’s first mat yet?
By Sky Andersen