Alexandra Legouix says yoga for kids can be a huge life changer, and it’s easy to implement.
Stressful, nerve-wracking, demanding, difficult, tiring… sounds like hard work, right? You would, I imagine, assume I am talking about adult life… but I’m not. This is how it can feel for a child, or teen, every day and it can result in them feeling totally out of control.
Ongoing research suggests school and college is placing higher demands on our youth. Exams, too much homework, heavy workload, lack of organisation, too little ‘down time’, increased class ‘participation’ are all adding extra stress on the less confident. Then there’s a lack of support, new environments, hard classes and routine changes – the list is endless. Research has also found that yoga can genuinely help counter these pressures.
We know that regulating and controlling our breath has been scientifically proven to calm our mind and relax us. We know that a positive mental attitude and a positive mindset will help us feel more confident. We know that exercise improves our muscle strength, boosts our endurance, helps our cardiovascular system work more efficiently, improves strength, coordination, body awareness and energy levels. And we know that meditation and mindfulness bring about a gentle, accepting attitude to the present moment, and promote happiness and relieve stress. Yoga is one of the most all-round forms of exercise and one of the only activities that ticks all of these boxes in one.
The very nature of yoga and mindfulness also offers children a chance to explore their bodies, play, connect more deeply with their inner self, develop an improved and more acute awareness of the natural world that surrounds them and can bring out that wonderful inner light and joy, that all children have, to the surface.
Football, tennis, hockey, athletics, swimming… there are so many choices available for physical, movement-based extracurricular activities for children but few are non-competitive like yoga. The pressure in the classroom to ‘be the best’ academically is high. The pressure to ‘be the coolest’ socially is often cripplingly hard and we all know how horrific the internet is with regards to placing unwelcome pressure on individuals.
Yoga can be the perfect remedy for these tensions associated with day-to-day demands. There is a total absence of judgement: doing a pose ‘perfectly’ or better than anyone else in the room is not the aim of yoga.
Cosmic Kids – an incredible online yoga for kids company that I highly recommend checking out – ran a wonderful study and discovered that 97% of teachers had seen a positive change in students behaviour – 51% a marked change. Ninety per cent have seen a positive change in students’ empathy and awareness, 96% of teachers have seen a positive change in kids’ ability to focus, and 97% have seen a positive change in their strength and balance. Amazing, right?
Whether or not your child’s school has introduced yoga there are so many simple and easy ways for you to do so at home. For example, a lovely, simple breathing exercise that I have found children love to do in the morning is the ‘Flying bird breath’:
1. Stand tall, with arms at your sides and feet hip-width apart in standing Mountain Pose.
2. Imagine being a beautiful, strong bird.
3. Pretend to prepare to fly by inhaling and raising your arms (‘wings’) until your palms touch overhead. Keep your arms straight.
4. Exhale slowly as you bring your arms back down to your sides, palms facing down.
5. Repeat in a steady motion with each breath: inhale as you raise your arms, and exhale as lower your arms.
6. Optional: close your eyes as you repeat the movements with breath, and imagine yourself flying in the sky like a bird.
The more fun and playful yoga is for children and teens, the more likely they are to do it alone or with friends. There are so many exercises and poses available that you can encourage your child to do – and even better if you do it with them… after all, we all want an excuse to roll around and be playful ourselves, right? This is your chance to play too.
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