Childhood is a vibrant time when eyes and minds are open to learning and natural energy and creativity are high. Unfortunately, for the children of the 21st century, overstimulation and lack of movement, distractions and temptations have presented new risks involving their health and wellbeing.
Yoga is an activity with countless benefits for children, but the main focus is to nurture a strong and healthy body and a calm and contented mind. It incorporates mindful-movement, expressive games and elements of Acrobatics, which can be a lot of fun. Breathing and mindfulness meditation are also an essential part of the class. These help children to centre the mind and connect to their imagination creating a sense of connectedness with oneself and the world around them.
Here are some of the elements that make part of a yoga class along with their main benefits:
Breathing and Awareness
In Yoga, kids learn a variety of breathing techniques in an imaginative and playful way. Besides allowing the body to relax and stretch further, the breath works as a bridge between the body and the mind, children become aware of the breath and able to utilise breathing patterns to improve their emotional wellbeing.
Stretching and strengthening
The combination between a strong and flexible body results in stability and freedom of movement allowing children to develop and refine the motor skills necessary for an active and healthy life. The synchronicity between movement and breath in yoga increases awareness of quality of movement, good posture and improves function of the respiratory system.
The process of learning how to balance on one leg is about ‘finding our centre of gravity while dancing around the edges’. The body eventually becomes still once the mind settles which requires increased attention and focus. Practicing balance poses through yoga games helps children to switch from an overactive to a more collected and calm state. This can aid children to cope better when they find themselves in stressful situations.
Building solid values
Kids yoga teaches about individuality and self-expression, supporting character development and interpersonal skills. By developing a consistent practice, children learn to cultivate self-control, patience, gratitude and respect for themselves and others. These qualities flourish during mindful meditation when children are exposed to stories or affirmations that support their quest for meaning and promote experiences of wonder that connects them to others to share human values and life’s meaning.
Yoga goes far beyond teaching our children basic physical skills or how well we can move our bodies. It reminds them that we also have an inner spirit that is essential to our wellbeing. It shows children that it is important to know what we are like on the inside, with all our emotions, qualities and flaws therefore supporting them on the path of becoming the best version of themselves.
Melina G. Alarcon completed a Bachelor of Physical Education in Brazil in 2005 and moved to Australia where she started her Yoga training. Since 2009 she has been involved in teaching a variety of yoga styles including Yoga for Children, Family Yoga and Vinyasa Flow Yoga for adults. In partnership with Fluid Performance, an athlete training facility in Sunshine Coast, she opened her studio, Fluid Yoga, where she offers classes for children and adults daily. She is passionate about dancing and teaching yoga to people of all ages. She enjoys investigating and learning about the psychology behind mindful movement and has been studying Psychology at the University of the Sunshine Coast for the last 2 years.