Yoga is not new. However, what is fairly new and growing in popularity is yoga with kids. There are many benefits for kids in a yoga practice. The lives of today’s children seem to be more stressful, rushed and hurried than in past generations. There is more pressure to perform at school, and at little league. Yoga is a great way to slow things down, if you feel your kids are stressed or being rushed through life.
Yoga provides a way for kids to learn to slow down, relax and focus inward. In this way, they are reaping the same benefit as adults in using yoga for relaxation and stress relief. They can learn to experience inner peace and body awareness, as well as the importance of caring for the body and living a healthy lifestyle.
There are yoga DVDs and classes designed especially for children. Classes can be found in some yoga studios, kids’ gyms and even in preschool or Montessori classrooms. Some focus on the use of animal names and imitation in many yoga asanas, such as downward facing dog, cat pose and cobra. This is immediately attractive to young children, who often pretend to be animals during play.
When starting yoga with kids, it’s important to take it slow and have reasonable expectations. Depending on the age of the child, the practice will have to be modified and the instructor or parent needs to follow the child’s cues. Early sessions should be short enough to work with the child’s natural attention span, so it remains fun. As the child grows, the yoga practice will naturally lengthen and expand both in the time spent in practice and the focus.
One big benefit of yoga for the family is that yoga is an activity that can be enjoyed by most people, regardless of fitness level. Since each works at his own pace, there is no competition, pressure or reason to push beyond one’s natural capacity, flexibility and level of strength. Practicing yoga, like any parent-child activity, has the potential to increase the bond and create a special time to be together and have fun.
Children need the same basic supplies an adult would need for practice. Special yoga clothes are not necessary. Dress the child in comfortable clothing in lightweight fabrics. Make sure the clothing isn’t too tight and won’t obstruct movement during practice. A non slip surface or yoga mat is important and plenty of space to move and experience the poses.