There are many challenges facing families and schools today: low academic achievement; unfunded mandates to increase scores on standardized tests; physical and mental health issues such as obesity, depression, and the astronomical rise of ADHD; increasing rates of autism; all this coupled with the loss of physical education, sports, music, dance, and art programs in school. Yoga can help! Yoga, practiced regularly, touches all of the above issues through its breath work and postures. Different from adult yoga, kid yoga is a non-competitive and gentle form of exercise that promotes flexibility, concentration and relaxation. Poses are often playful and fun–teaching children how to stretch their muscles and feel connected with their minds, bodies, and emotions. There are many ways teachers and parents can infuse simple bites of yoga into the day. It doesn’t have to be an hour-long session to reap its many benefits. Sometimes even just one pose or breathing exercise after lunch, before a test, or before bed can help calm, center, and redirect a child in a positive manner. Below are some simple, quick ideas on how to use yoga with your kids. Easy-to-follow videos included.
The meaning of the Sanskrit word for yoga is “to join or unite,” and that’s exactly what it does. It joins the mind with the body and spirit. It joins people and builds relationships in the family, classroom, and community. It unites your breath with your emotions. In our fractured, hectic world, it helps us reconnect with ourselves and others. Whatever ones particular take is on the meaning of yoga, vast amounts of research show its tremendous benefits. But we often neglect the population that needs it the most–our children.
In case you’re worried, yoga does not have to be religious. Though some sources define yoga as a Hindu spiritual discipline, stone carvings in the Indus Valley depicting figures in yoga positions pre-date this religion. Yoga–like Tai Chi, Qigong, and meditation–is just one of the amazing human traditions that promotes peace, health, and inner strength.
Yoga is a living tradition that has evolved and adapted over thousands of years. As humans evolve, so does yoga. Today, there is a yoga for every need, from pre-natal yoga to chanting yoga to hot yoga to laughing yoga to power yoga (exercise and enlightenment in one hour). There is even Ariel yoga for those who want to fly, like my 4-year old who wishes she had real wings. And thanks to good marketing, there’s a pair of yoga pants to go with every version. But little is required to get kids to feel the benefit of stretching and breathing.
The yoga in the following video series tackles particular scenarios that parents or educators come up against in their daily lives at home or in educational settings. The scenarios are matched with examples of yoga exercises that work best to address the particular need exhibited by the child. The various breathing and posture exercises promote strength, grounding, listening, stillness, and community.
Try doing them with your kids. Or learn one pose at a time and introduce it after school or between classes. Let us know what you think. And enjoy.
A simple yoga sequence for calming wild kids after school:
An easy yoga sequence to do with your kids after dinner. Great for digesting food and preparing for homework.
Woodchopper: A great yoga pose to help kids blow off extra steam.
Volcano: A great pose for helping kids to relax and unwind. Good for before a test or bedtime.
Arm Swings: Great for boosting energy and handling anxiety. Good to use with a group of drowsy kids before a new classroom activity.
Yoga Shaking: A nice way to get out energy, anxiety, and worries.
A full yoga sequence for children. Great for taking a break, relaxing, getting ready for bed or a story.
Please share your own ideas for integrating yoga in the classroom and the home.
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