Yoga, a practice that has been around for centuries, has gained immense popularity in the West. The yoga community has flourished in the past few years, appealing to busy parents, college students, professional sports teams, and yoga for children. Yes, you read correctly: yoga for children! Yoga can be a bit intimidating for those who do not know much about it. Is this a religion? Is it just stretching? How would this benefit my child? Can I benefit from yoga?
Yoga is not a religion, but it can be a part of religion. Yoga, traditionally, is correlated with Hinduism and Buddhism, but when practicing yoga, a yogi does not worship a specific God (unless they want to). Yoga can really be whatever you or your child wants it to be. Traditionally, there are Eight Limbs of yoga, as created by Patanjali. It helps to understand the practice of yoga and how yoga for children can help through mindfulness:
The Eight Limbs are:
1. Yama (ethics)
2. Niyama (self discipline)
3. Asana (postures)
4. Pranayama (breath control)
5. Pratyahara (sensory withdrawal)
6. Dharana (preparing the body for concentration)
7. Dhyana (meditation or contemplation), and
8. Samadhi (enlightenment)
Within the Yama and the Niyama:
There are five Yamas:
1. Ahimsa (nonviolence)
2. Satya (truthfulness),
3. Asteya (non stealing),
4. Brahmacharya (continence), and
5. Aparigraha (non covetousness)
There are also five Niyamas:
1. Saucha (cleanliness),
2. Samtosa (contentment),
3. Tapas (heat, spiritual austerities),
4. Svadhyaya (the study of sacred scriptures and study of the self), and
5. Isvara pranidhana (surrender to God)
Each limb was thought to prepare the mind, body, and spirit for enlightenment. The most common of these Eight Limbs in the West are Asana and Pranayama, which is what the typical yogi experiences in the average yoga class.
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That being said, yoga is not “just stretching”. Yoga can be a time of peace and quietness, as well as clarity and rejuvenation. By practicing Pranayama before an Asana practice, one will have the opportunity to ground themselves and just be. Lives are becoming busier and busier, which results in little time for just being. Yoga can be beneficial for the busy single mom who is on the clock from six in the morning to ten at night or the active child involved in extracurriculars. Yoga can be ten minutes on the mat or sixty minutes on the mat; one can simply breathe, stretch, sweat, and bend through yoga. Yoga can really be whatever you or your child needs!
But how will this benefit my child? Kidding Around Yoga, a world renowned yoga program for children, states simply,“ Kidding Around Yoga, at it’s very essence, is stress management for kids” and the benefits are ongoing. According to Kidding Around Yoga, yoga for children improves posture, strength, focus, concentration, coordination, stimulates the nervous system in a variety of ways, builds confidence and self worth, while teaching them how to reduce stress. Yoga for children also allows kids to be silly, have fun, and let loose, while maintaining the integrity of yoga by promoting kindness, compassion, sharing, mindfulness, and awareness. (kiddingaroundyoga.com)
Okay, so do I just bring my child to my Tuesday night yoga class? This is probably something you don’t want to do, especially without consulting the instructor! There are many yoga classes tailored specifically to the young audience. Typical yoga classes are geared towards adults, so it would not necessarily be beneficial to your child to bring them to your Vinyasa class! Kids Yoga classes incorporate stories, song, dance, and silliness, which is better for their gross motor skills, sense of rhythm, and overall childlike nature. This is also a great opportunity for parents to bond with their child by bringing kids yoga into the home- maybe as a way to decompress after school or soccer practice, or simply as a way to have some time away from a smartphone or a tablet!
Yoga has many physical and mental benefits for children and adults alike. By incorporating a kids yoga into your weekly or nightly routine, you may find that your child has more focus, self awareness, and overall happiness, while you will find peace of mind and a new way to bond with your child.
Do you have a yoga-inspired story you’d like to share? Drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you and possibly feature your story on our blog.
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