Yoga has long history of supporting our wellbeing, improving flexibility, reducing stress and improving sleep – these benefits are essential to kids as well as adults. So why is it only now (in the western world) we are only beginning to see Kids Yoga as equally beneficial and essential to their wellness?
#1 – The Art of Breathing
Babies are born, typically as belly breathers. Many a parent has enjoyed the simple joy and reassurance of seeing their little ones belly rise and fall with each breath. As we grow, many of our children, like adults begin to develop a shallow breath.
A full Yogic breath begins with an inhale that expands the diaphram, on its journey to the belly. The exhale begins at our full belly, releasing the diaphram and chest – as we feel the body empty of breath.
Children, like adults, who are mindful with their breath – feel the calming effects of diaphramatic breath. Guiding children to deepen their breath, begins with using tools that children can see and touch. We help children to better understand the process of breath, so that as they practice their breath awareness deepens. Often simple tools such as: breathing balls, tissue box on the belly, finger tracing, and many more.
Once children have begun to internalise the sensation of diaphramatic breathing, the filling of the belly with breath and emptying completely – with control and focus, we progress to less tangible objects. We begin to ask children to visualise such things as a balloon gently filling and inflating, as they inhale. The exhale is the gentle controlled releasing of breath as the balloon deflates. These visualisations are as effective for adults, as they are for children.
Belly breathing is an essential tool to support children to develop their breathing muscles, especially the diaphram. As children experience challenges, worries, stress and uncertainty, their belly breathing technique can be deployed to help bring a feeling of calm, improve focus and lower blood pressure. If you are curious to learn more about the benefits of Belly Breathing, you may like to explore this article: Diaphragmatic Breathing and Its Benefits
#2 – Yoga Supporting all Children
Yoga is practiced all over the world, from a very young age, children enjoy physical yoga poses. You may have seen children as young as 18 months begin to explore ‘downward dog’, perhaps at only a few months old babies grabbing their toes in ‘happy baby’. The asana, or physical Yoga poses come from natural body movements and hence are loved by children of all ages.
As children grow and are able to create the poses from simple instructions, we begin to see how asana can be accessed by all children. As children explore how different poses feel in their bodies, they are able to experience stillness, strengthening, energising and calming poses. Once discovered, the physical benefits of Yoga continue to unfold for children, they begin to experiment with their favourite poses and develop a deep love of the practice in their bodies.
Teens equally enjoy the challenge, comfort and calm that comes from a regular Yoga, breath and mindfulness practice. With greater ability to sustain focus and dive a little deeper into the philosophy of Yoga, teens are able to build greater appreciation for self-care and improved relationships. Gratitude, patience and acting from a place of kindness (Ahimsa; respect for all living things and practicing non-violence) are important ponderings for teens and pre-teens to explore. Children from 7-8 years are supported as they begin to navigate more complex friendships, physical changes and crave greater independence. This journey, when approached with loving support and a sense of curiosity, encourages pre-teens and teens to consider positive relationships and how to sustain and grow these.
Seeking more insight into the benefits of children finding their way onto their Yoga mat? We recommend enjoying a read of this journal article – to find out more Teaching Yoga for Kids: Why Kids Need Yoga as Much as Adults Do
#3 – Yoga for Kids with Anxiety and Autism
One of our greatest joys at Haven Yoga Studio is to support children with diagnosed disabilities, as well as those with anxiety and other social or emotional needs. Connection with belly breath and calming poses, can support children to begin to self-regulate their emotions, allowing them a sense of control over how they feel and respond.
We also love our play-based approach to Yoga. Too often life feels so serious, even for our children. So we encourage play, playfulness and a child-centered Yoga and breath journey. Children are encouraged to experience breath, movement and stillness through Yoga, play and games. We discuss, share and have a go at new poses. We love hearing children’s voices in our classes. Be it through drawings, physical movement, stillness or words – all children are able to share their preferred and non-preferred elements of Yoga.
Our philosophy is that all children are welcome, all children can benefit and all children deserve to learn the skills of Yoga and breath. We love creating a supportive and safe environment, where all children feel confident to grow and share. Our children include those with diagnosed disabilities, including Autism and we are delighted to observe their love of Yoga grow with their experience, confidence and with modifications to our classes as require. I love learning more, if you do too, perhaps this article will be one for you – 6 Benefits of Yoga for Children with Autism