Did you know that you can improve your child’s health, concentration and confidence through simple and fun yoga? And, even better, you can join in! Read on…
We all know about the benefits of yoga for you, but did you also know that it can be great for your child too? Yoga helps kids to develop strong, flexible bodies, an excellent sense of balance and coordination, and a feeling of confidence and grace in their movements.
It’s also great for:
Standing tall: yoga also instils good postural habits in children. These days, it’s common for school-age kids to carry heavy bags or satchels on a daily basis, to spend long hours at a school desk and to sit on chairs that encourage slouching and rounding of the lower back. It’s hardly surprising that posture-related problems, most notably backache, are among the most widespread afflictions of modern society.
Good breathing: yoga teaches children how to breathe correctly by inhaling slowly and deeply through the nose and drawing the breath right down into their lungs. This type of breathing creates a calm, focused and receptive state of mind.
A calm nervous system: another crucially important role for yoga is in calming down the nervous system. As a result of sensory overload from TV, video games and electronic toys, kids can become chronically over stimulated and may lack the ability to concentrate for sustained periods of time.
When to start
Kids can begin to practise yoga as early as three or four years old. Every child is different though, so you’ll be the best judge of when your child will be receptive to yoga. Once you’ve built up knowledge of the postures, you’ll know when the time’s right.
When you’re just starting yoga, it’s better not to have a strict timetable that you feel obliged to follow. Do yoga when it feels right and when you and your child are both feeling really keen. This way you come to the practice full of enthusiasm and interest.
Five to ten minutes at a time is plenty when you’re first starting out. Later on, when you and your child are accustomed to doing yoga together, you can lengthen the time of the session.
Here are some of our favourite moves….
Sitting quietly with your child for two or three minutes and focusing on your body and your environment helps to prepare you for the yoga session that you are about to begin. Sit cross legged on the floor on the edge of a folded blanket or a cushion. Get your child to sit opposite you and hold your hands. If they are very young, they can sit on your lap. Gently close your eyes and become as still as a rock. Your child can either keep their eyes open or close them.
This posture massages your spine and the muscles around it. Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Lift up your head and rock yourself forward and backward like a rocking chair. Do this about ten times. Rock up to a sitting position. Once you get confident, see if you can rock all the way up to standing, using your arms to balance.
If you’re feeling tired, Helicopter stimulates you and wakes you up. Stand with your feet hip-width apart or slightly wider. Stretch your arms out to the sides, palms facing down. Twist to your left, taking your left hand around to the back of your right hip, your right arm around the front of your body and your right hand to your left shoulder. Look behind you. Breathe in and twist back to the centre with your arms stretched out to the sides. Now repeat the twist in the same way on the right side. (This is quite a complicated movement so make sure that you understand it and can do it yourself before you explain it to your child.)
Enjoy the journey of yoga with your child and remember that the process goes on into old age and beyond…
(Poses taken from Yoga For You & Your Child by Mark Singleton © Watkins 2003, 2016, commissioned photography by Matthew Ward)