Kids are born Yogis
Before discussing the benefits of yoga for children, let me share an experience with you.
A few days ago, I visited a friend, who is mothering a toddler. That little boy always had some surprises in store for me, whenever I visited him these past 15 months of his life. This time he greeted me with a smile, all the while playing with his ball sitting on the floor near the sofa. Well, that was not the surprise part but what he did next took my breath away. He was sitting with his legs spread out before him. The ball rolled under the sofa. In an attempt to look for the ball, he simply bent forward, turned his head towards the sofa and rested it on the floor, in that same position. I was astonished to see how effortlessly the toddler had performed a perfect seated forward bend, a yoga pose, that most adults find difficult to execute.
This small incident clearly highlighted the fact that a child’s body is super flexible and can naturally perform yoga poses. In fact, one of the main objectives of yoga is to maintain the childlike flexibility in your body throughout your life.
- why is it important to introduce yoga to your kid.
- Also, the benefits of yoga at various levels for a human being.
- What poses are suitable for a child as a beginner
- And lastly the precautions you must take when initiating your child to yoga asanas.
Why is it essential to introduce yoga at an early age
Yoga is not a form of exercise, but a way of living, or rather a tool to live to the fullest. The word “yoga” in Sanskrit means “union.” It is the union of the self with the universe. It is neither a religious act, nor a philosophy, but simply a practice to achieve mastery over the mind and the body as well as align our system with the cosmic energy.
Never before has it been so essential to introduce yoga to children than now. In this fast paced world, when children have to face the ever-increasing pressure of studies, it is vital to teach them to cope with the daily stress in a healthier way. The school pressure, vast curriculums, busy, working parents, lack of playtime, competitive mindset from a very early age, etc. all these accumulate a considerable load or stimulation on a child’s mind that often interferes with her physical and mental wellbeing. Moreover, the pressure of study hardly leaves any room for play–something crucial for the physical, emotional, and psychological development of a growing kid.
Introducing yoga to your child at an early stage will not only help her deal with so much pressure but also enjoy life the way it is, in spite of its hardship. It is the key to flourish in a healthier, happier future.
If started early in life, the benefits of yoga can be tremendous on your child. It can be introduced as early as 3-5 years of age. However, you must be careful about the yoga poses that you are going to introduce to your child. Not all the poses are suitable for a child’s developing body.
The benefits of yoga can be noticed in the development of your child’s cognitive, proprioceptive, neurological and sensory systems as well as in her overall wellbeing.
What your child can learn through Yoga
When we think about yoga, we visualise some difficult postures and the physical fitness that they provide. However, besides the physical benefits, yoga asanas act upon multiple dimensions within our system thereby ensuring an overall enhancement of our life. Some of these benefits are:
1. Improves awareness of breathing
Every asana is performed with a specific breathing technique. Maintaining the sequence of deep inhalation and exhalation along with the different movements, of a particular posture, helps the body and the mind relax and the lungs to reach their full capacity. Practicing these correct breathing techniques along with the poses, helps to:
- Maximize the benefits of yoga
- Increases focus and concentration
- Improves awareness of our breathing mechanism and therefore brings more control over breath
- Stimulates happy hormones and thus relieve stress automatically
While every asana promotes a balance within, certain balancing poses improve physical balance too. The benefits of yoga during the developing stage, when children are still working on their physical balance, are tremendous. Besides making your child well aware on how to balance her physical body, it promotes her inherent strength, brings stability within herself and calms her mind. A well-balanced body has more control over the mind with increased attention and focus. Thus it trains her mind to remain calm and unaffected and act the best way she can, even in a stressful situation.
3. Flexibility and strength
Yoga is the best way to improve muscle strength. Yoga asanas are designed in such a way that different muscles of your kid’s body get stretched. This stretching and lengthening brings flexibility as well as the strength that supports the tender joints without hurting them during the process. Flexing different parts of the body and holding the pose make the core of the body strong from within.
4. Focus and coordination
Yoga asanas train your child to develop coordination of different parts of the body. Make sure that the teacher, while demonstrating the poses, also explains how every movement impacts our system. This will create awareness in your kid about the functionality as well as the capacity of her own body. While in a posture, yoga teachers usually ask the students to bring their focus to that part which is being flexed or stretched during that movement. This eventually helps in increasing focus in your child.
5. Understand the flow and integration of the body
Teachers always ask the student to perform yoga with utmost ease. The slow but steady movements help be aware of the flow of the body, bring control over every muscle, nerve, and joint. For example, in a pose like Vrikshasana, kids are asked to press their hands together over their head, yet to relax their shoulders. With regular practice, your child can attain mastery over moving different muscle groups while isolating them from the nearby ones.
6. Meditative power
The whole process of yoga evokes a meditative nature in your kid. Be it sitting still, balancing on one leg or performing a series of movements, yoga induces relaxing, meditative energy as it needs utmost focus and attention on whatever one is performing at a time. It has a calming effect not only on the human brain but the entire body as well.
Yoga poses suitable for kids and their benefits
1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
This asana is usually the starting posture for all the standing poses. It helps improve posture. However, it is also beneficial if practices as a separate pose itself.
- Strengthens thigh, calves, knees, and ankles
- Engages the core and firms up the abdomen and buttocks
- Improves posture
- Improves flat feet
2. Vrikshasana (Tree Pose)
Your child experiences the grace of a tree with the help of this pose.
- Improves balance
- Stretches the inner thighs, shoulders, chest, and groin
- Strengthens calves, ankles, thighs, and shoulder
- Good for children with flat feet
3. Suryanamaskar (Sun Salutation)
This series of 12 poses are different ways to salute the sun. It is also a great cardiovascular activity.
- Strengthens and energises the entire body
- Stimulates the nervous system, improving brain functions, memory, and focus
- Promotes blood circulation
- Helps the internal organs function better
- Improves digestion and relieves constipation
- Helps calm the mind, reduces stress, restlessness, and fear
- Increases the flexibility of the spine, limbs and all the joints
- Induces sleep
4. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
It is a perfect pose for stretching the back.
- Strengthens the spine
- Opens the heart and lungs
- Stimulates abdominal muscles and organs
- Relieves stress
- Gives chest, shoulder, and abdomen a good stretch
- Good for children with asthma
5. Salabhasana (Locust Pose)
This asana prepares the body for deeper backbends like dhanurasana. Your kid may find it difficult, in the beginning, to lift the torso and the legs simultaneously. She can start with supporting the upper part of her body with hands on the floor when lifting the chest.
- Strengthens the muscles near the core, spine, the back of the legs, arms, and buttocks
- Stretches the spine, shoulders, belly, and thighs. Opens chest and improves lung function.
- Gives a good massage to the abdominal organs
- Improves digestion
- Improves focus
6. Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
This pose teaches your child how to engage her core to balance her body. It also helps open her chest to improve lung and breathing function and shoulders.
- Strengthen back muscles
- Strengthens thighs, ankles, chest, groin, and abdomen
- Improves the functionality of abdomen organs like liver, kidney, pancreas, and intestine
- Improves the flexibility of the spine
- Aids digestion. Increases appetite
- Good for children with respiratory problems, rheumatism or back pain
7. Adhomukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog pose)
This easy-yet-extremely beneficial asana offers a rejuvenating stretch for the entire body.
- Stretches hamstrings, calves, hands, and shoulders
- Strengthens arms and legs
- Has a calming effect on the brain, relieves stress and energises the body
- Therapeutic for flat feet, sinusitis, asthma
- Improves digestion
- Can prevent osteoporosis
- Improves menstrual discomforts
8. Ananda Balasana (Happy baby pose)
This asana has a relaxing effect on the back joints.
- Provides a gentle and soothing stretch to the spine and inner groins
- Opens the hips, and thighs
- Calms mind, and relieves fatigue
9. Savasana ( Corpse Pose )
This is one of the most effortless asanas though it needs patience to perform to perfection.
- Relaxes the body and calms the mind
- Maintains healthy blood pressure levels and heart rate
- Releases tension from every muscle
- Improves memory, concentration, and focus
10. Sarvangasana (shoulder stand)
“Sarva” means entire, “anga” means body parts. This is one of the few powerful asanas that stimulate the whole body to function at its best.
- Increases blood flow to the brain, hence improving its functionality
- Ensures blood flow in the neck and throat region, thus revitalising these areas.
- Reduces the risk of thyroid problems
- The inverted position helps blood to flow automatically to the heart, ensuring good heart health
- Makes the spine more flexible
- Increases balance in the body
- Strengthens arms, leg, and back
11. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge pose)
Bending the body like a bridge can rejuvenate and energise the body
- Give a good stretch to the neck, spine, and chest
- Have a stimulating effect on the thyroid, abdominal organs
- Good for digestion
- Reduces fatigue, anxiety, back pain or headache
Precautionary measures to take when initiating your kid to yoga
- Let her practise only under the supervision of a well-trained teacher. While there are innumerable benefits of yoga, doing it wrong can be dangerous.
- Be very careful about which asanas are suitable for your kid’s still-developing body. Consult the yoga teacher on which poses she should practice and which she shouldn’t.
- Make sure that her yoga time doesn’t interfere with playtime or sleep. It might cause her to lose interest.
- Ensure that the teacher demonstrates the asanas while telling about their benefits, proper ways to do them and what not to do. It’s easier for kids to mimic than to follow instructions.
- Choose an open-air setting like a park, the backyard of the house, with enough sunlight, air, and greenery. This helps rejuvenate the mind and the body and gives a chance to your child to connect with nature while performing the meditative practice.
- The best time to practice yoga is early morning, right after waking up, when your stomach is not full. However, if not suitable, then evenings are the second best choice.
- You should practice it too, along with your child. It will give your good parent-child bonding time. It also will encourage your kid to continue practising daily if she watches you to do it too.
- Set new challenges for your kid. Children love to outperform themselves and that makes them stay motivated as well. For example, ask her to bend her back more than what she did the previous day in Bhujangasana.
Practising yoga daily will eventually improve your kid’s self-confidence, make her more disciplined, develop healthier food as well as lifestyle habits and deal with a stressful situation with much ease.
Have you yet started practising yoga with your child? Which one is the kid’s favourite pose? Share your experience with us or if you have any question, feel free to write on the comments section.