Friday, 11 September 2015 05:57

Yoga and Children

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Yoga and Children

 

 



  The integration of yoga into children’s physical education programs and exercise routines is becoming more popular. In times gone past, yoga was only ever taught to adults, however children are starting to reap the mental and physical benefits of participating in a yoga routine. Schiffmann (1996) notes, that yoga is a sophisticated system for achieving physical health, mental acuity and peace of mind. Yoga teaches and develops a child’s strength, flexibility and balance and its primary premise is to align, stretch and strengthen a person’s posture. Finger (2000) agrees by stating that yoga’s brilliance lies in its execution, not in how hard or far you can push yourself. According to Bersma & Visscher (2003), children are natural yogis. The soothing rhythm of breathing, relaxing and stretching leaves students calm, alert and ready to learn.

Physical Benefits

Yoga is a physical discipline that strengthens, stretches and aligns the body. Finger (2000) notes that yoga has many benefits which include: developing long lean muscles, better posture, improved breathing, enhanced digestion, better circulation and a relaxed nervous system. Another significant benefit is that yoga can be adapted in many different ways depending on the age, body type, flexibility and coordination of the child. Wenig (2003) supports this noting that children aged 2-6 love roleplaying activities and have short attention spans. Yoga can therefore be adapted with music and fast movements to keep the child engaged whilst developing flexibility, strength and balance.

  

 Emotional and Mental Benefits

It is not only adults that experience day to day pressures and stress. Children experience similar pressures and stress with school demands, competitive sports and busy parents. Yoga is one type of physical activity that allows children the time to relax and learn self -control in a controlled environment. Marsha Wenig (2003) believes that yoga can counter pressures experienced by children on a day by day basis by allowing them to quieten their minds whilst learning breathing techniques to create a mind body connection. Furthermore yoga has many mental benefits. Finger (2000) notes that yoga promotes self-discipline and inner strength, which improves a child’s mental outlook, creative potential and self-expression.

Breathing

An important part of yoga training is breathing. Breathing is part of what separates yoga from other forms of exercise.  Breathing brings each yoga pose to life and establishes the tome of the routine. Breathing oxygenates the organs, muscles and cells of the body as well as calms the nervous system. According to Bersma and Visscher (2003), children that are restless, irritable or rowdy can be calmed down with breathing exercises. Finger (2000) notes, that children should be taught the basics of breathing at the start of each yoga class. This includes:

  • How to breath slowly and deeply
  • How to use the full circulatory system to get the most out of each breath.

 

 

  

Yoga Poses for Children

Outlined below are a number of yoga poses that children can do in the comfort of their own home.

Mountain Pose 

Stand tall with big toes together and heels about an inch apart. Activate thighs by pulling quadriceps up towards hips. Let arms hang down by side with fingers pointing down. Relax shoulder blades in your back.

Up Cat

Begin on all fours with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Fingers face forward and are spread wide. As you inhale, curl toes into the ground and rotate tailbone to the sky while lifting chest through shoulders and curve spine into a smoothly arched back bend. Lift chest away from the wrist and slide shoulder blades down the back. Look slightly upwards.

Down Cat

Breathe in deeply. While exhaling, tuck the tailbone down and under and at the same time pull the abdominal muscles backwards towards the spine. Press firmly down with hands. Lift out shoulders and press the middle of the back towards the sky, rounding the spine upwards. Curl head inwards and look at the floor between your knees. 

Tree Pose

Begin by standing with hands together. Lift right foot and bend right knee. Press foot against inside of left leg either on the calf or above the knee on the inner thigh. Raise arms up over head and spread arms wide like the branches of a tree. Hold for three breathes. Switch legs and repeat on the other side. 

 Child's Pose

Begin by bending knees and sit down on heels. Open knees slightly so stomach can relax between thighs. Bend at the hips and fold forward, letting shoulder blades relax away from ears. Let arms rest beside with the back of arms on the ground and palms facing upwards. Place forehead on ground.

 

 

References

Bersma, D. & Visscher, M. (2003). Yoga games for children: Fun and fitness with postures, movements and breaths. California: Hunter House.

Finger, A. (2000). Introduction to yoga: A beginner’s guide to health, fitness and relaxation. New York, NY: Three River Press.

Schiffmann, E., (1996). Yoga: The spirit and practice of moving into stillness. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Weing, M. (2003). Yoga kids: Educating the whole child through yoga. New York, NY: La Martiere Group

Read 2801 times Last modified on Friday, 11 September 2015 07:37

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