Although yoga has enjoyed popularity with adults for many years, we have only recently come to understand how helpful it can be for young children.
Yoga postures and angles create pressures that stimulate the body and brain, enhancing fitness, confidence, self-discipline and focus.
Yoga helps children become aware of themselves from the inside out. From this awareness, changes and growth in new and positive directions can blossom.
Benefits for All Children
As a Montessori teacher I learned that typical children and those with special needs are all capable of much more than we think they are. Given the right environment, they excel beyond our belief. Many professionals who work with autism, sensory integration, learning disabilities, and ADD/ADHD are using children’s yoga with great results.
There is a natural affinity between these children and yoga, since yoga addresses the whole child, including the brain/body connection. Yoga helps them let go of fear, anger and sadness; stimulates creativity; builds trust in the inner self and brings their minds and hearts into synch, all with awareness.
Recently I taught yoga to a group of children between age four and seven. They flexed their spines in cat and cow, mooing and meowing enthusiastically; stretched into cobra, hissing all the while; balanced on their bottoms holding their legs up in lotus flower pose and focused as fierce warriors in archer pose.
We followed the active yoga exercises with a deep relaxation in which the children visualized themselves lying on a warm, sandy beach. As they breathed in they imagined the waves of the ocean coming up to the shore. On the out breath, the waves returned to the sea.
Looking around the room, I noticed that each of the children internalized these images in such a way that he or she relaxed more profoundly than in deep sleep. They were consciously relaxing, bringing their minds and bodies together to achieve a peaceful awareness of inner space.
This is the basis of yoga and meditation. It is also the basis for a happy, peaceful life. The inner experience of yoga gave these children access to a gift of trust and peace they can never lose; it is within them all the time.
Enhancing Positive Attitudes
After our relaxation, we sang together. The lyrics instructed, “You can make the sun shine any old time, Even when the clouds are there.” When I asked, “Does anybody know what this song means?”
One five-year-old girl answered immediately, “It means that even when things are not so good, you still have the sunshine in your heart, and you can make things better!” Need I say more? Tools for life…
Tips for Making Yoga a Part of Your Family
- Create a special time for yoga and follow it with a deep relaxation.
- Make a “sacred space”. Cover a table or box with a cloth and decorate it with pictures and objects that have special meaning for your child. Add a candle for focus during a meditative yoga time.
- Begin by closing your eyes, and taking a few deep breaths. Mentally or out loud recognize the inner guidance, and connect it to your concept of universal guidance, whatever that may be.
- How long to do yoga? With preschoolers, ten to fifteen minutes is a good start. Each exercises lasts 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add more time as their ability to stay focused grows. Elementary-age children do twenty minutes, including some deep relaxation, and a few minutes of meditation. You will know the capacity of your child. Start simply and build gradually.
- FUN: very important! Entice your children with imaginative, engaging exercises. Challenge them using a timer (“Let’s see how long you can hold that pose with deep breathing!”). Approach a child’s inner self using intuition and light-hearted humor rather than intellect.
Get ready for lots of pleasant surprises, fun and great blessings from yoga!
Shakta Kaur Khalsa has over 20 years of experience as a yoga teacher, teacher trainer and Montessori educator. She is the author of Fly Like A Butterfly: Yoga for Children, among other books. She travels nationally and internationally presenting The Radiant Child Yoga Program, a fun and comprehensive workshop for learning how to teach children yoga. For more information visit <www.childrensyoga.com> or email [email protected] to find a children’s yoga teacher near you.