By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
There are many benefits to the regular and dedicated practice of Yoga. Some of these benefits range from improved strength and flexibility to a better sense of balance and concentration. All of these benefits will also help children, particularly in a school setting. There are so many children, today, who are struggling with their weight and an inability to focus on their schoolwork. As we all know, the obesity epidemic is becoming more and more serious, both in the adult and child populations. The number of children, who are being diagnosed with ADHD, is also at very high levels. Yoga is a great tool for addressing both of these issues.
One of the very best ways to introduce children to the practice of Yoga is by having fun! A serious practice of asanas, with a complex introduction to Vedantic philosophy, is not the way to introduce children to Yoga, especially not very young children. Children love stories, and modeling their behavior after characters in stories. If you introduce a short series of asanas, based on some animals from a creative story you just told to them, they will love it!
For example, a dog may be a prominent character in your story. You may want to introduce a series of poses, with an opening stretch to the moon, with the children’s hands raised over their heads, and then go into Downward Facing Dog for a good initial stretch. As you flow with them through a series of poses, you may want to have them act out a story, linking the poses together as the characters move through the plot line. As the story comes to a close, so does the Yoga class. It is a great idea to have them finish the class with 3-5 minutes of meditation; just enough time for the children’s minds to settle and focus, but not so long that they get bored.
Before you introduce Yoga to children, it is important to make sure that the children in your class do not have any special physical limitations or requirements. If some of them do, make sure that you can accommodate them within the context of the class you have created. Most children will benefit greatly from regular exercise, Yogic practices included. An added benefit of Yoga is that it is easily accessible to most children. Asanas are often used as physically and emotionally therapeutic tools to help children become more aware of their bodies, lose weight, improve social skills, and focus their minds. If Yoga asanas are presented creatively in a story-context, the children will not even know they are exercising!
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