By Jenny Park
Kids yoga provides a wealth of benefits for children, including increased strength, flexibility, coordination, blood flow, confidence, and ability to focus. Children who practice yoga are learning good habits to relieve stress and connect with their bodies early in life. They are learning how to find an inner peace, how to breathe deeply and consciously, and how to recognize when different parts of the body are in need of a stretch. It is important for trained yoga instructors and medical professionals to understand any health precautions associated with kids.
Most yoga classes for kids follow an informal, energetic format that is a bit different from adult classes. Children are naturally flexible, having looser joints than adults. In order to avoid joint injuries and muscle strains from taking a stretch too far, children should be taught to go slowly and recognize when something doesn’t feel right.
Instructors should create a comfortable atmosphere, where children aren’t afraid to adjust or come out of poses that feel awkward. Yoga instructors, who specialize in teaching children, should also keep it simple, by introducing easy poses first and building upon them as children become more comfortable and confident. Part of the classes should focus on the basics of yoga, by emphasizing the importance of the mind-body connection. Professionals should teach children to listen to and trust their own bodies and never do anything that hurts.
Another important precaution of children’s yoga to consider is making sure classes are age-appropriate. Children cannot be expected to sit quietly, and move fluently from a series of poses for an extended period. Classes must be modified in time as well as methods. A toddler class needs to be upbeat and fast-paced to keep limited attention spans engaged, and to keep the experience positive. Older, preschool-aged children require the same, but with a few more challenges sprinkled in to avoid boredom. While it is acceptable to have a quiet, reflective period at the end of class, children should be encouraged to sing, repeat the names of poses, or create sounds to go with each pose. By incorporating a verbal element to kids classes, they will more readily remember learned poses. Elementary-aged children will happily engage in yoga-related songs, stories, and role-plays for a fun experience they will want to revisit time and time again. Yoga instructors must strive to provide a great experience, which will lay the foundation for children’s future endeavors.
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