Our world is changing constantly and kids are facing different challenges than they have in the past. Commitments outside of school, friends, family and especially the external world with phones, TV, internet and games consoles keep them busy.
For many children, daily life has become too much for their young, developing minds to absorb and process.
Lack of connection to your body and mind, overeating, stress, anger issues, learning difficulties, anxiety, low self-esteem, a general lack of compassion, empathy and respect for the self and others are the results of an information-saturated and hectic culture.
Through the use of tools, games and stories, yoga provides children with the ability to connect authentically with themselves and others with love, compassion, understanding and clarity.
Here are some of the many benefits of yoga for children.
Yoga helps kids to:
1) Promote Self-Acceptance and Self-awareness
Getting to know your body and mind through yoga, children learn to accept their boundaries but also learn to love and honour their body. Especially in teen years, yoga can help them through self-doubts. Yoga teaches kids to simply love themselves. They learn how important happy thoughts are and what impact it has on your daily life, how it can affect your attitude and that of others.
2) Increase Strength and Flexibility
Children are naturally flexible but somewhere around the age of six or seven their flexibility begins to diminish. Yoga helps to maintain flexibility. Holding a variety of poses and breathing creates strength in their bodies and minds.
3) Improve Balance
In balancing poses children learn to focus and to be still in order to hold the pose. They get encouraged to try again and not to give up. It gives them confidence as falling over is part of the practice and the more they try the stronger their body and mind gets.
4) Boost Confidence
Yoga is non-competitive, there is no winner or looser. Everybody is equal, but our bodies are different. There is no pressure to perform. They learn different variations of each pose, so every child can do the pose within their ability. After a few lessons they can already see an improvement and that motivates and gives them the confidence to try more challenging poses.
5) Respect Others
Everyone is unique and special in their own way. We all come from different backgrounds, have different beliefs and habits. In yoga we teach children acceptance and tolerance of others. Namaste - the light in me sees the light in you. All living beings are to be respected as they are and this leads to a peaceful community. Kids enjoy working with a partner or in a group and achieving success together builds positive peer and social interactions.
6) Understand Health and Stress Management
Healthy eating, thinking positive and learning how to shift from a negative mindset to a positive are only a few things children learn in yoga. With breathing exercises kids learn to focus the mind and calm themselves down. And those tantrums in front of strangers turn into a thing of the past.
7) Use Imagination and Creativity
A fun way to get kids to mediate is to try a mandala colouring meditation. Kids yoga classes are fun and can get loud once they get the giggles. Of course it depends on the age of the children, but it is not about sitting still and chanting Om. Instead they enjoy games, songs and stories while learning poses and breathing techniques as a tool to calm down. Yoga helps kids to use their imaginations, to create a new yoga pose or to give yoga poses new names. There are no limits.
At the end of each lesson, it is all about relaxing and letting go. Children are invited to tune out the noise from the rest of the world and find the peace inside of them. In a comfortable lying position they are encouraged to just rest for a few minutes – Savasana ('corpse pose') - Yoga allows to do nothing.
In yoga, children learn techniques for self-health, relaxation, and inner fulfilment, they can navigate life's challenges with more ease. Yoga at an early age encourages self-esteem and body awareness in a non-competitive environment.
There are different ways of introducing yoga to your child, through a yoga class in a yoga studio or you can teach your child yoga at home. To begin a yoga and mindfulness practice with your child, you do not need to be an expert.