Saturday, June 19, 2010

Calming Our Kids: Yoga For Children

Most of us today live busy, fast-paced lives.  We spend our days hurrying from place to place and staring at computer screens and iPhones.  We rarely have time to relax. 

And our children are no exception.  Between school, homework, and extra-curricular activities, many children barely have time to play.  Even toddlers spend too much of their day riding in the car and too much time in front of the television, or playing with toys that make way too many noises and have way too many flashing lights.

Tell me Tickle Me Elmo doesn't give you a headache . . .

We are all overly stimulated on a daily basis.  We desperately need a way to relax.

One way great way to do this:  yoga.  

Yoga has been a popular form of excercise and relaxation for adults for a long time, but recently it has grown in popularity as an activity for children as well.  While yoga for adults is most often quiet and introspective, kid's yoga programs are usually more fun and relaxed.  Through yoga, children gain flexibilty, coordination, and strength, and can learn to develop a sense of calm and concentration.  But most importantly, they have fun.

What exactly is children's yoga?

Like yoga for adults, yoga programs for children vary widely.  Yoga, which literally means "union" in Sanskrit, is essentially the practice of a series of postures or poses.  Each pose offers it's own unique physical benefits, and when done as a series, the poses help the body to develop strngth and flexibility and, according to many, also calm the mind.

There are many, many different yoga poses.  Most teachers and programs teach children only a few, and don't spend a lot of time focusing on achieving the perfect posture.  With kids, it's not about getting the pose completely right; it's about having fun with your body and feeling free to be silly.

In a kid's yoga class, you'll probably see children roaring and pretending to be lions when they learn lion's pose and barking like dogs as they attempt the downward dog pose.  Often, music and games are incorporated into children's yoga classes to encourage movement and fun.

Check out the following clips for two examples of what children's yoga might look like:

What benefits do children get from doing yoga?

According to Marsha Wenig of Yoga Journal, "children derive enormous benefits from yoga."  By practicing yoga, children can:
  • develop body awareness
  • improve their strength, flexibility, and coordination
  • improve their concentration
  • learn to relax more deeply
  • develop a greater sense of calm
  • enjoy exercise
  • play more freely and with fewer inhibitions
Where can my children do yoga?

  • BabyMoon Boutique in St. Charles offers both Parent/Baby and Kid's Yoga classes.  These classes were my first introduction to yoga for children (and to yoga in general) and my daughter and I both had a lot of fun.  Classes are offered as a 6-week series.   Unfortunately, the classes are often cancelled due to limited enrollment, so call them and let them know if you're interested!
  • Masterpeace Studios in Crestwood  Plaza also offers a variety of yoga classes for children of all ages.  Programs include Mommy and Me Yoga for ages 9 months to 3 years, and Yoga and Art classes for both Elementary students and Teens.  I've never bee to Masterpeace Studios, but after previewing their website, I'm planning a visit soon.
  • At home!  There are tons of yoga programs for kids on both DVD and CD.   YogaKids: For Ages 3-6 is one of our family's favorites because it includes lots of silly animal poses that get all of us laughing.  Even my toddler gets involved!
Or if you're looking for something a little more relaxing (to do before bedtime maybe?) consider a CD of calming, soothing yoga such as Namaste! Songs, Yoga & Meditations for Young Yogis, Children, & Families! 

CD's such as this one usually come with booklets to teach you the poses, and once you've helped your children master them, they can do them quietly (at least that's the idea) with the peaceful background music.

Whether you choose the fun, silly yoga or the calm, relaxing yoga -- whether you do it at home or join a class -- you can be assured that both you and your children will reap the rewards.

In our fast-paced world, we all need a chance to slow down and breathe.

Even our smallest citizens deserve this opportunity.  Namaste.

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