How yoga can be just as great a gift for children as it is for grown-ups.
As far as my yoga teaching career is concerned, I have not yet had the opportunity of teaching yoga to kids. However, I have been curious about trying and this curiosity has only increased after my time teaching English and French at an upper secondary school this year.
The experience has made me realize that concentration difficulties, poor eating habits and stress is just as common amongst young adolescents as it is amongst adults and that the seeds to these bad habits are often planted way before starting secondary school.
Kids today live in a busy world. They are surrounded by parents with hectic jobs and no time, by pressure from school and competitive sports, by social media overload that do more harm than good to a young, uncritical mind.
Not to mention the impressive choice of virtual entertainment that makes youngsters stick to the chair during leisure time. Call me traditional (and partly inexperienced since I have no children of my own), but when my students say they spend most of the weekend inside playing video games, I get worried. And even more so when I see a lack of creativity and curiosity at an age where this should be at its very height.
I am not going to speculate as to the link between this and that but I would be surprised if sitting in front of screens being entertained instead of getting out there to entertain does not have a negative effect on creativity.
So, being a yoga teacher with a strong wish to promote the wonders of yoga in every suitable setting, I’ve done some research into what good a yoga practice could do to children.
Here’s the result, summarized into five benefits that I see as the most essential:
1. Builds body awareness, strength and flexibility without being competitive
2. Improves concentration and focus
3. Stimulates a child’s ability to react calmly and stay calm in stressful situations
4. Empasizes play, thereby stimulating creativity
5. Encourages a positive outlook on life
This being said, teaching yoga for kids is not the same as teaching adults.
According to Mark Stephens, one has to consider the age group, emphasize simple asanas with “natural” names and limit the practice time. Kat Heagberg strongly suggests being ready to change your plan as you never really know what might happen with 10-15 energetic kids tumbling around. She also encourages focusing on play and limiting positive feedback as positive affirmations may take the focus from what practicing asanas is really about.
Inspired? I am. Check out Mark Stephens’ book which includes 3 yoga sequences for kids categorized into age groups. Or, if you’re looking for a yoga-for-kids teacher training program, YogaKids or GroovyKids Yoga maybe worth looking into.
It’s time to play!
Katinka is an adventure-seeking, wine-loving yogini with a passion for the unknown. Her curiosity has led her into many peculiar situations, from having tea with Sudanese ministers and roadtripping through India’s heartland searching for guerrilla soldiers to crossing the Alps on skis. She loves contrasts, which is why you find a mix of high heels, climbing shoes, cowboy hats and yogamats in her closet, and strongly believes it enriches her life. When she is not in the classroom teaching French, you will find her daydreaming on a mountaintop, working on her handstand or under a blanket reading while sipping a tempered Côte de Rhône. Get in touch with her by e-mail or facebook.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta