5 outstanding yoga tips for young children
Yoga is the most peaceful form of exercise that unifies the mind, body and soul. Through a combination of a number of meditation, breathing and stretching techniques, yoga relaxes the mind and soothes the body. This form of exercise is fast gaining popularity in the West with many individuals turning to it for its myriad benefits, but studies are showing its health advantages for young children as well. Kids practicing yoga are found to develop better intellectual growth due to physical activity and movement.
Benefits of yoga
Yoga is not just physical exercise. It involves the mind too. Yoga is known to boost confidence and strengthen self esteem. It also helps one in getting a better control over one’s body and emotions. The balancing exercises help in discovering new ways of treating one’s body and allows people to discover the hidden potential they possess.
It improves flexibility, increases strength and keeps stamina levels to the optimum. Yoga is found to be very helpful in fighting anxiety and depression.
Yoga for children
As much fun as it may sound, yoga with kids can be very challenging. The instructor needs to keep in mind the difference between adult yogis and children. When adults take up learning yoga, they do that knowing their need for yoga and its importance. The case may be quite the opposite with children. While some might be coming to the yoga class out of their interest to learn something new, most will have been forced by their parents to take the class. These forced little souls may prove to be some of the most difficult nuts to crack!
Let us think of each child coming to yoga class as a mound of clay. It can be moulded the way we want. Any shape, any size. The choice lies with the sculptor. But these mounds of clay are not the same. Some are very easily mouldable while others need the hands of an expert to deal with them. Children are as mouldable as clay but they need to be treated the right way.
Each child has his own set of weak and strong points. Some might be very attentive throughout the span of a 45 minutes class while others may lose their attention during the first 10 minutes. In the same way, every child has a different body with different flexibility levels. It is best to treat every child with equal and individual attention and make sure they enjoy yoga. They will do best only if they enjoy what they are doing.
This is the first and most essential part of yoga. It is more like preparing your mind and body for what’s coming up next. It involves taking deep breaths with closed eyes and sitting crossed legs. It makes a connection between your mind and body. It helps in calming and relaxing the small bodies that are otherwise restless. Ask the kids to close their eyes and prepare themselves for yoga. Tell them to take deep breaths that will lighten a bulb inside them and you can hear their breath. Anyone who wants a brighter bulb has to take deeper breaths.
Create a routine
The best approach to make children ready for yoga is to create a routine. This routine does not have to be something which has to be strictly followed, but something that can keep them focused. Start with breathing and then try different yoga poses for each body part starting from the head and ending at the legs.
There can be more than one pose for each body part and children can decide which one to add to their routines on that particular day. This will keep their imagination on the go and make them stay interested in the routine.
Keep it interactive
The best way to keep kids focused in yoga class is to keep the class interactive. Kids can take turns counting out aloud for the repetitions for each yoga pose. And they can even call aloud for the breathing exercises that are to be done in between the poses. This gives the kids a feeling of authority and participation. Not to mention that they feel important too. It also helps in keeping them focused and engaged. Another benefit is the confidence boost. Counting out aloud for the whole group helps a lot in boosting confidence. Small things make big differences.
Encouragement and appreciation
Who does not like to be encouraged and appreciated? You should not expect every child in the group to perform best. Every child has his own strengths and weaknesses. It is best to find that strong point in each child and appreciate it in front of the whole group. Appreciate the ones who are doing well at a particular pose. Make the whole group clap and cheer for them. Encourage the ones who are a little behind. This appreciation and encouragement will go a long way in developing their interest for yoga and meditation, and especially your class. It will keep the kids motivated and will bring out the best in them.
This is perhaps the only factor that will guarantee the interest of kids in yoga. Kids get naturally attracted to things that they find fun to do. Well, that’s the case with adults too actually but with kids, it’s a guaranteed thing.
Make funny songs for each pose with the kids. Encourage them to use their imagination. It will be surprising to see how these little brains work. Ask each child to make a story relating to its favourite pose. Help them unleash their imagination. Tell them to make different variations to each pose and state the additional advantage the variation may bring to their routine. You can even have a ‘trip to the zoo’ activity. In this activity, each child will display their favourite animal pose in front of the group.
Children find group activities or activities with a partner more fun. Make them do routines in groups or with a partner. This helps them develop a sense of community and teamwork. This also helps them to make new friends and overcome their shyness.
Make sure to devote last 5 minutes of the session for calming and relaxation. Children can lie down straight or in a child’s pose. This will relax their bodies and minds.
These are some of the very simple to follow tips for yoga with children. These tips can ensure turning beautiful sculptures out of the clay mound. You could even take children on a yoga retreat to a beautiful destination – and I can guarantee that they will never forget the feeling.