The Benefits of Kids’ Yoga
Today I would like to welcome Acacia, who has written a guest post on the benefits of kids’ yoga. Acacia is a part-time SAHM, a part-time yoga instructor at the Yoga Patch, and an intuitive artist. She fills her days with a lot of play with her 3 year old son Everett (and she has one on the way!), a little bit of responsible mommy stuff, and a little bit of blogging. You can normally find Acacia over at Be Present Mama, where she writes about yoga, being present in your life, and her experiences as a mother. Today I have a guest post there. So once you’re done reading about the benefits of kids’ yoga, head on over to read about our quest to create a time capsule for Kieran.
This article is the first in a three part series on Kids’ Yoga. In this article Acacia introduces Kids’ Yoga through examples of her own personal experiences, and she outlines some of the benefits of an active practice.
I have been practicing and teaching yoga for several years. My own self-awareness, inner peace and emotional and physical health have changed phenomenally since I incorporated yoga practice into my life. I was amazed to learn a year ago how much yoga could benefit my then two year old son, Everett, as well. I hadn’t thought of including him in my practice, let alone starting his own, until I was introduced to the world of mama and me, toddler and children’s yoga. I knew Everett would benefit from yoga too, and so I encouraged him to mimic me as I moved through some simple poses.
In August of last year, the Yoga Patch in Kansas City opened, and I applied to instruct adult classes. I was thrilled to learn that it would be a family studio that included children’s classes, and I quickly signed myself and Everett up for the Parent and Tot class. He has loved it from the get go. Since we have started classes and brought the practice into our home, I have seen positive changes in him and have realized how incorporating yoga into the lives of children everywhere could make for a much happier and calmer population.
All over the West and East coasts, in studios and in schools, families are reaping the benefits of children’s yoga. The movement is slowly moving into the Midwest and there is good reason for it. Our society is bustling with parents and children functioning at top speed: working, going to school, scrambling from ballet class to soccer practice to drive-thru dinners and homework before bed. On the other hand, children are unloading from school buses, grabbing a questionable snack, and plopping down in front of the TV for a few hours before their parents get home from work. Our children have much to gain from these ancient practices that are rooted in Indian culture but are formatted into classes especially for modern day kids.
Kids’ Yoga Classes
Stepping into a kids’ yoga class looks very different from adult yoga. Kids’ yoga is focused on activities that look more like games and play, but they all facilitate a child’s learning of yoga principles like inner peace, self-discipline and the mind-body-spirit connection through asanas (poses) and breathing techniques.
At Parent and Tot Yoga, you can often find us on our mats acting out stories using yoga poses. For example, once we visited the beach using Warrior 1 and 2 poses to “surf.” We use this activity with several age groups to introduce children to various yoga poses, enhance body awareness, and exercise creative expression.
You may find us wiggling our legs like the wheels of a train while we practice our choo-choo breaths. This is a perfect introduction to breath awareness and gives children a tool to relax their bodies and to express or control emotions.
Sometimes our instructor has us slowly walk across the room while balancing a plastic egg on a spoon to practice quiet bodies. This activity enhances body awareness by emphasizing the difference between constant movement and a calm, slower pace. It also promotes good posture and coordination.
We will often simply read a book and talk about what makes us each special. We have read from books like “Incredible You” by Dr. Wayne Dyer and “The Way I Feel” by Janan Cain. These are positive, affirming books that promote confidence, respect, and awareness of emotions.
Kids’ yoga engages children in sharing time, storytelling, games and activities, breathing exercises, sun salutations, asanas, and affirmations. It teaches techniques for self-health, relaxation, and inner fulfillment that allow them to navigate challenges with ease. It can benefit children during school hours by enhancing concentration and focus, building a sense of teamwork, and teaching children to channel their energy. It improves physical health by encouraging body-awareness, strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance. In relation to the world around them, yoga fosters cooperation, compassion, and a deeper connection to the natural world.
Since we’ve started taking classes and bringing yoga into our home, I’ve seen a lot of growth in Everett. He’s able to calm down when feeling overwhelmed and has begun controlling impulses like hitting or screaming during outbursts. With my guidance, he uses his breath to calm down or relax before bedtime. He is sensitive to the feelings of others and is beginning to notice the impact of his actions on other people. He connects his words to his feelings and desires. And it even has a positive impact on his pretend play: I love watching him move his stuffed animals into yoga poses and hearing him randomly repeat affirmations that we’ve used during practice.
I am eager to see how yoga influences Everett’s life as he grows. I am also actively seeking ways to use yoga as a gentle and creative parenting tool.
Please check back next week. I’ll be back to share how kids’ yoga has influenced children within a school setting and how it has benefitted specific groups of children, like those with special needs.
In the meantime, please visit Be Present Mama where I post a bi-weekly series called “Kids Yoga Activities.”
Wenig, Marsha, “Yoga for Kids,” http://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/210
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"The Benefits of Kids’ Yoga"
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