Have you tried yoga? Have your children? It seems many people have either done yoga or thought maybe they should try it. The beneficial effects of yoga are many, with a growing body of research worldwide showing the benefits of yoga for children. Yoga programs for pre-school age children, as well as primary and high school students are growing internationally and in Australia.
The meaning of yoga is union of body, mind and spirit. Practicing yoga brings strength and relaxation to the body as well as a healthy sense of self esteem and clear thinking. Yoga for children (as well as for adults) affects body, mind and spirit, bringing balance to these three levels of being.
Local pre-school teacher Violetta teaches yoga regularly to children between 3 and 6 years at the Thirroul Montessori Pre-school, and has witnessed huge benefits in behaviour and the way children feel due to yoga. When she introduced yoga to the Stage 1 Montessori class, initially most children chose to observe* a small group of children participating in the yoga session, but by the next session all of the children were keen to participate.
Violetta says, "As a classroom teacher I have been teaching yoga for about ten years mostly with 3-6 year olds. I am continually inspired by the benefits of yoga for the children I work with. They are always eager to join in and be a part of the yoga sessions. During yoga, children are encouraged to slow down, breathe, relax and to connect with themselves. The physical movements are easy and fun, and the feeling that is experienced by the children brings them into a special place within themselves. This is a place where they feel calm and centred, and practicing yoga allows them to come into that place. It is interesting that it is always the children who find it the hardest to be calm at first, that end up loving yoga the most! It is so valuable to provide this space for children where they feel safe and nurtured in such a busy world, where they can find that centre of stillness and trust inside themselves."
Yoga for children often involves music and stories, being animals and making their noises. It needs to be fun, or a young one's concentration may waver.
Concentration, and a feeling of being 'centred' are qualities that yoga can enhance for children. In this sometimes hectic and often hurried world, our children (as well as ourselves) can be swept up in the rushing. Sometimes it helps to just slow down, breathe, and appreciate what is around us.
As a parent, the simple things in life often give us the greatest joy. Children help us to appreciate these simple things with their playful and innocent spirit. Yoga brings the simple things in life into focus, and nurtures and honours the whole being of a child.
Yoga enhances health and vitality. On a physiological level, muscles are strengthened, the spine becomes stronger and more flexible, posture is improved, internal organs are massaged, and full deep breathing is facilitated.
Yoga increases body awareness for children and can assist a child to
- Develop flexibility
- Enhance all Non Locomotor skills
- Improve balance and concentration
- Strengthen and tone muscles and help develop muscle coordination; and
- Improve the function of all of the body's major systems eg Digestive, Respiratory etc
Self-esteem and clear, positive thinking are mental and emotional benefits attributed to yoga. In the non-physical realm, yoga for children
- Balances the functions of the right and left sides of the brain, assisting with both creative and cognitive brain function.
- Familiarises younger children with right and left.
- Improves listening skills and the ability to follow instructions.
- Provides ways to release stress and pent up emotions and ways of thinking.
- Introduces the ability to focus the mind which enhances concentration.
- Stimulates Alpha brain wave patterns (during relaxation) which encourages a feeling of wellbeing and increases creativity and imagination.
- Provides opportunities that help foster positive self image and esteem.
- Can encourage children to be more aware of the power of their minds and of positive thinking, which over time can help develop a more caring attitude to others.
The tool-box of skills learned by young children from yoga, are skills for life.
* In a Montessori environment it is just as meaningful and purposeful for children to be able to choose to observe a presentation of an activity or exercise
Note: This article was also featured in the recent issue of Early Years publication, a local magazine for Parents of the Illawarra, found at most child friendly locations.
Author: Erika Steller is a Dru Yoga Registered teacher and graduate of the Dru Yoga Teacher Training Course. Erika teaches Mums & Bubs and Pre-school Yoga classes in the Thirroul area. See Parents Guide listing for more information or you can contact Erika on 0427 131 701 or firstname.lastname@example.org