Yoga for Children by Joanna Gardner

February 28, 2007 at 8:03 pm 2 comments

starfish2.gifYoga is appreciated and enjoyed by children of all ages. However a children’s Yoga session is vastly different to an adults class. The key to being successful when introducing Yoga to children is in the way it is presented to them.

The approach needs to be fun, fairly dynamic, creative and stimulating to the child’s imagination. You can do this by using songs and threading the many beautiful Yoga postures of animals and nature based objects together into different stories. The stories are wonderfully brought to life through the child’s own vivid imagination. Appropriate music and a few simple props help as well. (eg. Tree branch prunings, animal pictures or felt ears)

lotus.jpgWith a group of children you can play a variety of Yoga games. These may include the cobra snakes slithering through a dog tunnel, statues, geometric body shapes, visiting a farm or zoo, Alphabet Yoga or partner Yoga. Movement or dance also integrate well with Yoga.

As well as the active Yoga postures that work on strengthening the physical body it is important to keep in mind the holistic nature of Yoga which nurtures the body, mind, emotions and spirit of the child. For a session to be balanced it is important to introduce calming and focusing techniques to the child.

Diaphragmatic breathing can be introduced in a fun way, such as being a balloon filling up with air then emptying, or watching the chest rise and fall like the waves of the ocean. Asthmatic children particularly benefit from cleansing breathing which empty the lungs fully and lengthens the exhale. With older children Alternate nostril breathing has a wonderful calming effect.

Premeditative techniques that help develop concentration and focus can be used with children from 4 years old. The focus may be a candle flame, an attractive picture, or beautiful objects from nature such as a shell, flower or crystal. With younger children it is best to firstly explore the object with all of the senses, and then to see it behind the closed eyes.

Relaxation and a guided visualization is a beautiful way to complete a Yoga session with your child, or before bedtime. Create a peaceful atmosphere with ambient music and incense. Satin eye pillows filled with lavender flowers and flax seeds are helpful and calming and enjoyed by all ages. Keep the relaxation fairly short (4 – 7 minutes) for younger children.

In such a fast paced society, bombarded with television and over stimulation I see there is a growing need in our children to learn to focus their minds, gradually developing better concentration skills; to acquire the art of relaxing the body and learning how to be still and peaceful within themselves.

BENEFITS OF YOGA
The practise of Yoga is holistic and affects all levels of a child’s being. The physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects are subtly brought into balance.

flowergroup2.jpgThe benefits to children (& adults) in practising Yoga are numerous. On a physiological level all muscles of the body are exercised and strengthened, the spine becomes straighter, stronger and more flexible, posture is improved, internal organs are massaged, stretched and toned, and full deep breathing is facilitated. Ultimately this leads to better health and vitality.

More specifically Yoga can help children.:

  • Increase their muscle tone and develop muscle co-ordination;
  • Develop both body and spatial awareness;
  • Balances the functions of the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which helps establish hand dominance;
  • Familiarises younger children with concepts of right and left;
  • Improves balance and concentration;
  • Listening skills and the ability to imitate and follow instructions are improved;
  • Develops greater awareness of how the body functions (particularly the lungs); and the difference between relaxation and activity within the body.
  • Gives them a method for releasing pent up emotional and mental states of mind.
  • Introduces the ability to focus the mind and improves concentration and study skills
  • Children with Special needs benefit from regular practise. This includes Asthmatic children, Cerebral Palsy, and children diagnosed with Attention Defficient Syndrome.
  • On a more subtle level I have found children to be more aware of the power of their minds and of positive thinking. Over time this can help develop a more caring attitude to others.

    A little about myself :
    I have a wealth of experience in both Early Childhood and Yoga teaching.
    I have practiced and studied Yoga since 1989, and have been teaching Yoga since 1991. In 1992 I acquired a Certificate in Yoga Teaching and in 1994 I received my International Yoga Teacher Association Diploma.

    I was Director at Mt. Warning Community Preschool for 14 years and incorporating Yoga into the daily programme seemed to happen quite gradually and naturally which I found the children enjoyed.

    In 1995, and in 1999, I presented a 2 hour seminar, for Early Childhood staff, at the Northern Rivers Country Childrens Service Association, to show staff how to incorporate Yoga into an Early Childhood setting.

    Since February 2000 I have visited over 40 Early Childhood Centres and Preschools, from Tweed Heads to Ballina; some to just try a session with their children, and many centres and schools as an ongoing programme. In Byron Bay I am doing classes at both Jonson Street and Cavenbah branches of Byron Bay Preschool and also at Byron Childrens House. I have had a very enthusiastic and positive response from the children, parents and staff who have participated in a Yoga session.

    Although my main emphasis has been with preschool aged children I have also worked with older children. During term 1, 2000 I taught 3 regular weekly yoga classes for grade one through to grade 6 at Kangia Steiner School, Murwillumbah. Throughout this last year, whilst working at Byron Vacation Care, I have been presenting Yoga classes, on a regular basis, to children attending aged 6 to 12 years old. As well as children’s Yoga classes I have been teaching adult classes in the Mt. Warning area for 10 years.
    “YOGA FOR KIDS” officially came into being on 1st October, 2000 and I hope to see it grow and prosper, as I feel it is a valuable experience for today’s children.

    I am now starting weekly Children’s Yoga classes outside of school hours at Byron Bay.

    Please contact me if you are interested.

    JOANNA GARDNER

    EMAIL :
    joanna_gardner@hotmail.com

© 2000 – 2007 by Joanna Gardner.
All rights reserved, any printing and publishing of the article must have permission from the author

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Entry filed under: Children, Family Health, Parenting. Tags: , .

Crying as Communication

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. cerebral palsy causes  |  May 8, 2008 at 8:18 am

    cerebral palsy causes…

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  • 2. Karan  |  December 5, 2008 at 9:56 am

    A great new DVD was just released called ‘Shanti the Yogi – Mountain Adventure’ that has a kid’s yoga class accompanied by a beatifully illustrated story and really good music for kids.

    Check it out here:
    http://www.spiritvoyage.com/yoga/Shanti-the-Yogi—Mountain-Adventure-DVD/Snatam-Kaur/DVD-002410.aspx

    Reply

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