The body-mind connection is symbiotic. One cannot function optimally without the other being in balance.
Yoga is a self-help discipline that helps children cope with life. It is step by step. A child can start yoga play at any age. The beauty of yoga is it can be introduced in the most rudimentary way.
A parent whose baby is on her back does yoga everyday. Holding the feet and play cycling the legs is yoga. Reaching his arms upwards while making eye contact, smiling and talking to him is yoga, while it enhances flexibility.
Toddlers are on the move as they develop self-awareness, use their bodies and begin to talk. Play can include make pretend. Yoga poses include the names of animals, plants, and things. Be a tree or a rabbit. Zoom like a plane. Bark like a dog.
As children get a little older, pretend to be a tree that sways with the wind. This is a lovely way to stretch from side to side for parent and child. Widen your legs for a longer stretch.
“Children love yoga. They are natural acrobats. Many of the poses, some named after animals, can be combined with play and storytelling for moral value, fostering imagination and developing cooperative play. Yoga develops awareness of the senses and how the body works and moves. Children love to imitate adults. Family yoga can give both parents and children an activity in which to bond in a nonjudgmental, accepting and peaceful way.”
In children, yoga starts with the body. When we look at children we see them at play.
The older a child gets the more control they have over their bodies. Yoga can begin to take formation in small groups, practicing poses with unusual names. Perhaps, they can close their eyes for a few minutes and try to sit still, no peeking allowed.
Yoga is the development of concentration. From the simplest connection of eye-to-eye contact and a parent’s touch, to make believe, to sitting with the eyes closed, the mind is absorbing that experience. All the while the child develops self-awareness in an environment that is based on play and movement.
Physical activity is a must for all children. The days of coming home from school, going outside till dinner, and finding friends to play with is becoming a thing of the past. Formal activities and play dates have replaced the spontaneity of finding what is outside the front door.
Activities may take the shape of organized sports that offer children exercise, lessons in sportsmanship, friends, and the attention to learning the rules of a game. Competitiveness is also part of the experience. Some children are programmed for it and others are not.
Other activities may include martial arts, music lessons, tutors, TV, computers, video chats, and video games.
Martial arts a body-mind discipline, like yoga, will strengthen and relax the body. Concentration is necessary for learning unique movements. Blocking out distraction is a benefit and the focal point.
Any activity where a child can move their body after sitting in school all day is essential to their mental and physical well being.
Inactivity breeds dis-ease in the form of stress, boredom, apathy, over-eating, lack of focus, and potential health issues such as childhood diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. Low self-esteem is a by-product of these symptoms, beginning the cycle again.
Physical activity stimulates cardio-respiratory fitness, skeletal development, strength, flexibility, and brain development.
Children are under stress. School, friends, lessons, activities, rushing from one thing to the next, homework, meeting expectations of teachers, parents, coaches. Living up to their own standards of who they think they should be and how to fit in at any age is best tackled early before peer pressure decides for them.
Yoga for children is a place where there are no expectations. Children do. Children are. As they get older and become more proficient they learn the more exact way to do a pose and focus for longer periods of time.
Yoga teaches a child what their bodies can and cannot do. Self-doubt turns into self-confidence. It teaches them they are unique while teaching them to be welcoming and tolerant of others.
One of yoga’s precepts is “ahimsa”, which means nonviolence. As a child learns tolerance and acceptance of self, in turn they learn not to hurt others. A peaceful nature is a kind nature.
Yoga can be done anywhere with anyone. Perhaps the next play date can be a yoga class with a parent leader, at a studio, an after school program, a private instructor, a video, a park, or a high school student doing community service.
“ScienceDaily (Sep. 16, 2010)— Researchers have found an association between physical fitness and the brain in 9- and 10-year-old children: Those who are more fit tend to have a bigger hippocampus and perform better on a test of memory than their less-fit peers.”
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