By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
It is well known that Yoga is extremely beneficial for adults, but it can also be a great activity for children. Starting a Yoga practice, early in life, can give a child a head start on his or her health and well being. Some of the early benefits are conquering stress and obesity to set the foundation for a healthy adult life. However, Yoga can sometimes be seen as merely a ‘grown-up’ activity, so teaching it to children can come with some challenges.
In order to properly practice Yoga, and receive the maximum benefits, the mind must be completely focused on the task at hand. The more concentration one applies to Yogic practices, the more benefits one will receive in the long run. Although, it is well known that children often have less than ideal attention spans, it is important for a teacher to capture their attention during a Yoga session. Keep the techniques brief and the meditation session short. Maintain the pace of the class by moving steadily from one technique to another. During meditation, it can also be useful to use a creative focus point, such as a stuffed animal or colorful picture on the wall.
When children are just starting out with Yoga practice, some of the techniques can seem very complicated to them. Always be sure to teach children proper breathing techniques so they can move through the poses with more ease. Start with introducing a few basic poses, such as Tree Pose or Child’s Pose (how fitting!). Therefore, avoid overwhelming children by introducing too many new techniques in any given session.
Precautions for a Safe Kids Class
Children can become anxious during their Yoga training session. While enthusiasm is very useful, it can also lead to injuries, in the form of joint injuries or strained muscles. Explain to children how to recognize their personal limitations and how to avoid pushing beyond their limits. To avoid strain, do not hold a pose for too long, and point out to the children that if they are feeling overexerted, to take a break.
The traditional quiet Yoga school setting can spell boredom for some children. It is important to engage them in the physical exercise in order to reap the benefits, and for Yoga to become their cherished activity. Make up games and songs that teach Yogic principles. Practice some moderately fast-paced flowing asanas (when a child is ready) to keep them challenged and engaged.
Taking the time to teach Yoga to children, despite the challenges, can make all the difference in their world. After a few dedicated practices, you are sure to notice a change in the children you teach – they will be calmer, have more self-discipline, and better focus. All of these benefits lead to academic and athletic success.
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