Yoga for children
Yoga for children is a form of modern yoga designed for children. It includes poses to increase strength, flexibility, and coordination. Classes are intended to be fun and may include age-appropriate games, animal sounds and creative names for poses.
Montessori and Kundalini Yoga teacher and teacher trainer Shakta Khalsa began to teach yoga to children in the 1970s, in a Kundalini community. She states that the approach is not "just a scaled-down version of yoga for adults—it's a whole different animal." She taught asanas using simple descriptions: Downward Dog pose by getting the class to make the shape of a mountain, and Virabhadrasana by asking them to be "fearless warriors". She led children into pranayama with breath-awareness exercises like blowing on a feather and noticing the different feelings that came when you blew hard or gently. She discovered that the teacher had to avoid even basic terms like "inhale" and "exhale" if the children didn't know those words. In 1998 she published an early guide to children's yoga, Fly Like a Butterfly.
Marsha Wenig, founder of YogaKids International, has developed yoga sessions with videos suitable for children aged 3 to 6. She agrees that the teaching methods are necessarily quite different from those used to teach adults. The benefits may be "stillness, balance, flexibility, focus, peace, grace, connection, health, and well-being" but the challenge for the teacher is to hold the class's attention. She encourages children to "bark in the dog pose, hiss in the cobra, and meow in cat stretch." Her experiences led to a 2003 book describing the methods that she developed.
The benefits for children are similar to those for adults. Emotional benefits include greater optimism and a less reactive nature. Mental benefits including increased focus, concentration and improvements in the quality of sleep have been reported.
Research suggests that yoga practice can protect boys from increases in negative behavior.
Physical benefits include increased flexibility, improved coordination and balance, and increased core and body strength. Mental benefits include stronger mind-body connection, increased self-esteem, better focus and concentration, and increased ability to relax and cope with stressful situations. Social and emotional benefits include more awareness of self and others, and increased skill in problem solving and conflict resolution.
Some parents are worried by yoga's religious associations, believing that yoga is an offshoot of Hinduism. Yoga teachers accordingly sometimes avoid Sanskrit pose names, for instance saying cat/cow instead of Bidalasana, tree for Vrikshasana, and bridge for Setubandhasana. The yoga teacher and education researcher Andrea Hyde however states that yoga is not a religion and can fit into ordinary school curriculums, whatever the prevailing culture.
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