Why every child should do kids yoga
The Dalai Lama once said, “If every eight-year-old in the world was taught meditation, we will omit violence within one generation.”
Meditation and mindfulness is just one of the many exercises in kids yoga. For those who didn’t know, I’ve been teaching kids yoga for over a year now, having been certified by Yogi Beans NYC and Rainbow Kids Yoga in Singapore (for kids yoga and for kids and family yoga – this is different from my certification to teach ashtanga vinyasa yoga).
Kids yoga, as a lot of you might’ve presumed, is actually not at all like ashtanga, vinyasa nor hatha yoga. It is its own “branch” of yoga as it is designed specifically for kids, their capabilities, their needs, and attention span. Making a child hold a pose for 30 seconds like how one does in Bikram yoga won’t be possible at all. We must remember that these children are still working on the foundations of their balance and posture, and kids yoga is exactly what we use to build that.
Exercises are “hidden” within games, the kids think they’re just playing, not knowing that we are actually building their skills – from coordination, memory or even patience. We do only a few yoga poses per class, all named after cute animals or people, so as to make it more FUN. Even the way we do the sun salutations is turned into a nursery rhyme – it was quite a surprise for me when even one of my three-year-old students was able to recite and do the whole thing by herself last week!
There are plenty of benefits in kids yoga and I feel like I should enumerate some of them. And if you’re one of those parents who have been hesitant to bring their child to class, let this change your mind. After all, I speak from personal experience as I’ve been watching these kids grow in front of me, week by week.
Strength – Yoga strengthens muscles and joints, as well as helps kids develop overall strength. You’d be surprised to see a six-year-old do chaturangas or handstands like a piece of cake. It makes my heart smile whenever I see their strength develop – the first day of yoga they can hardly plank and after a while, they can even hold their side planks while playing.
Flexibility – Kids are naturally flexible; it is when they turn nine that they start losing it. Doing asanas help stretch their muscles and release blocked energy and tension and thus make sure that they don’t lose it.
Breath Awareness – We teach the kids the concept of how our breath can affect our moods and vice versa. By controlling their breath through observance, they can begin to change their feelings and disposition. The kids’ favorite is the Lion’s Breath which is the best way to release unhappiness or frustration (and it works for adults, too!).
Focus – With the help of meditation, mindfulness exercises, breath-work, and asanas, the kids learn how to concentrate and not lose focus, which aids their ability to learn in school.
Patience and Discipline – I designed some games for my students that test and develop their patience and discipline. I know it works because some of my students’ pre-school teachers and parents would personally tell me how much the kids have changed ever since they started going to kids yoga. Even a simple “marshmallow test” is deemed impossible for them to pass at first. But sooner or later, they finally grasp the concept of delayed gratification and parents are more than happy about it.
Learning how to compete with oneself – Since yoga is a non-competitive activity, it teaches kids that though it is good to have healthy competition sometimes, it is always better to be in a non-judgmental and stress free environment and the only thing you would want is to be better than you were yesterday.
Balance, coordination and awareness – Through balancing work (from flying warrior poses to toe balancing games), children have more body awareness as their kinesthetic senses are developed. Children are able to understand their bodies more as they cultivate a sense of body limitations and extensions.
It calms the mind – With the help of meditation, mindfulness exercises, and learning how to do savasana, kids learn how to relax and calm themselves when need be. Parents are often surprised to see their kids lying down in stillness during savasana when they’ve deemed it impossible for their child to keep still most of the time.
Cultivation of friendship and social skills – The kids have a chance to make friends with children outside school. It’s so cute seeing some kids become instant BFFs in class. They’re usually a mixed age group, so it is quite heartwarming when you see older kids helping out the younger ones in games and poses, which help enhance their team skills and social interactions. I remember in the beginning, I had this three-year-old student who was extremely shy and hardly participated in class. As the weeks went on, she blossomed into this bubbly little girl, and her mom couldn’t stop gushing and telling me how happy she was with how her child has developed this new lively personality.
As the famous song goes, “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way.” It held true then, still holds true now. Let us help shape the future by nourishing the values of the children of today. Namaste.
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