Breathe in, breathe out. Stretch your hands out to touch the sun. Bend to touch your toes. Bend sideways; rotate your neck; pant like a dog and raise your body like a cobra. Yoga is all this and more. Often, when we think of yoga, contortionists come to our mind, but concentrating on each breath and breathing from the diaphragm is yoga too. Rolf Gates, the renowned yoga instructor describes yoga beautifully.
Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in. And this is the point of spiritual practice; to make us teachable; to open up our hearts and focus our awareness so that we can know what we already know and be who we already are.
Yoga is a powerful tool for centring and developing self-awareness. Yoga helps children who are anxious by helping them focus on just their breath. This is a good method of diversion and helps them control their anxiety when they find themselves in situations that overwhelm them. Children often find themselves faces with tasks where they do not know where to start. Yoga's method of learning stillness and reducing the mind babble, help children come up with solutions for the task.Yoga's focus on flexibility and stretching help children by building their core strength and a sense of balance. It helps children develop a good body posture; yoga can help in the transitioning years (9-14), where children start becoming both aware and shy about their bodies. Yoga is a great way for children to know what an excellent piece of beauty and design their bodies are.Simply by calming their breath, holding their pose and giving their limbs a good streetttch children find their inner gears working smoothly. They develop greater calmness and stillness while undertaking daily tasks.Yoga is a habit; a habit that once learnt and made a daily practice empowers children from year to year.Marsha Wenig, the founder of yogakids.com explains the importance and history of yoga, so well when she says:
Children derive enormous benefits from yoga. Physically, it enhances their flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness. In addition, their concentration and sense of calmness and relaxation improves. Doing yoga, children exercise, play, connect more deeply with the inner self, and develop an intimate relationship with the natural world that surrounds them. Yoga brings that marvellous inner light that all children have to the surface.When yogis developed the asanas many thousands of years ago, they still lived close to the natural world and used animals and plants for inspiration—the sting of a scorpion, the grace of a swan, the grounded stature of a tree. When children imitate the movements and sounds of nature, they have a chance to get inside another being and imagine taking on its qualities. When they assume the pose of the lion (Simhasana) for example, they experience not only the power and behavior of the lion, but also their own sense of power: when to be aggressive, when to retreat. The physical movements introduce kids to yoga’s true meaning: union, expression, and honor for oneself and one’s part in the delicate web of life.
You can read her eminently knowledge enhancing post here.If you'd like to introduce children to yoga, the best way would be to put them in a class. In addition to it, they can read some wonderful books that are available on yoga.Mariam Gates has written two beautiful books on yoga for children called Good Morning Yoga and Good Night Yoga.
#1. Good morning Yoga helps children to truly wake to the day and get ready to truly experience what the day has to offer.
#2. Similarly Good Night Yoga helps children prepare for the night.The buzz of the day has to be quietened, the body has to calm itself to enter a state of rest and stillness. A beautiful practical book for children to gently enter their sleep.
#3. Susan Verde, a certified yoga teacher collaborates with Peter.H.Reynolds to bring out I am Yoga, a book that encourages to look outside of themselves and be one with nature.
#4. Taeen Yoo's beautifully illustrated book You Are A Lion! And Other Fun Yoga Poses invites children to try out different yoga poses. Accompanying lyrical text, makes this book a real keepsake. Images from http://www.taeeunyoo.com/
#5. Flashcards for yoga? Yoga Pretzels is a fab set of illustrated flashcards that help kids learn yoga and have fun doing it. Tara Gueber and Leah Kalish authors of Yoga Pretzles run a website yoga.ed, with resources dedicated to how yoga can be used in the classroom and at home to help children's development.The backcover of Yoga Pretzles
#6. Would you like to do yoga at home with your child, but don't know how? Are you a teacher who wants to explore yoga with her students? Yoga for Children 200+ Yoga Poses, Breathing Exercises, and Meditations for Healthier, Happier, More Resilient Children by Lisa Flynn is just the book for you. Aimed at building self-confidence, self-awareness and focus, this book comes with full-color photographs, instructional scripts, and pose modifications.
From the introduction of Yoga For Children[/caption]Children internalise stress just as adults do. Some children may seem talkative but can be good at hiding stress; frustration, anxiety, performance pressure, peer pressure are all areas of concern and difficulty for both children and parents. Anna And Her Rainbow- Coloured Yoga Mats, written by Giselle Shardlow is about Anna who travels to new worlds doing yoga on her yoga mat during recess. A good book for 4 to 7 year old's, it introduces yoga as a practice to children.
In parting it would be wise to remember the doyen of yoga B.K.S.Iyengar who said,
Yoga is like music:the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.