By Sinead Hamill
More and more people are recognising the positive effects practising yoga can have on children. We are now seeing yoga classes being incorporated into many schools and after-schools and with good reason. Today’s child lives in a hectic world; one filled with technology, demanding schedules and high expectations. Physical activities are a great way to get children to relax and unwind, however, Get Active Ireland tells us that four out of five children in Ireland are not reaching the recommended amount of 1 hour of moderate intensity exercise per day. With all this added stimuli and conserved energy, is it any wonder stress levels and depression amongst children are on the rise?
For too long the 3 R’s ‘reading, writing and arithmetic’ have been hailed as the key areas of learning. Thankfully society is developing a more holistic approach that recognises the needs of the whole child; mind, body and spirit. Yoga offers children the opportunity to develop in all areas through the physicality of Asanas and games, mindfulness practices, creative visualisations, reflections and moralistic philosophy. It also gives them an opportunity to step away from stresses they may be under, receiving a well-deserved break.
Asanas or yoga poses, which improve balance, flexibility, strength and stamina, are presented in a child-friendly manner, through creative story-telling and fun games, which keep the children engaged and focused on the present moment. They are encouraged to perform the poses at a level they may find slightly challenging but one which they are comfortable with. Each child is unique, with their own capabilities and for this reason individual effort and team work are encouraged, in a non-competitive environment.
Through regular practise, children learn to cope with stress in a healthy manner, as well as learning to love and respect themselves, others and the universe. Activities based on mindfulness, including creative visualisations, relaxation, and breathing techniques helps children to slow down and connect with their true selves guiding them to regulate their emotions and reflect calmly on everyday situations. Lower levels of stress and worry means children are free to focus and concentrate on their other areas of learning.
Practising yoga not only helps children to develop strong bodies, their confidence and self-esteem also benefit. Yoga promotes a positive body image and increased body awareness, giving gratitude to our bodies for all that they do for us. Healthy living, taking care of and showing respect to ourselves and others are all encouraged, helping children to be more empathetic and understanding towards each other. With this loving attitude spreading, the likelihood of bullying decreases.
The New Year very often sees people taking up new activities, with refreshed, eager mind-sets.
With the start of the new year, perhaps it’s time you start considering giving your child and maybe even yourself the gift of yoga as a New Year’s practice. In fact, why not get the whole family involved by practising family yoga?
Coming soon - Sinead's Yoga classes for Children.