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Saturday
Jan282012

Yoga for Kids: Setting Children Up for a Lifetime of Success Through Balancing the Mind, Body and Spirit 

by Denise Woods

At six years old I began ballet lessons and instantly fell in love with movement. In those classes I connected with my confidence, ability and grace that paved my way of  life as a professional dancer and instructor. I realized firsthand what a positive influence the art of dance could be for the development of a child's life, I would soon learn how Yoga could do the same. 

Remembering how movement influenced my childhood, when I saw a newsletter for a local yoga studio announcing a “Rainbow Kids Yoga Teacher Training” I immediately grew inspired and made it my priority to attend.  During my training, I rekindled my love for movement on a whole other level.  I could not wait to share the power of kids yoga.  Now that I am teaching, I continue to discover the countless ways yoga can benefit the growth of a child. 

With it's roots in India, Yoga has been practiced for over 5,000 years. However, it was not until the 1990s that it became a popular practice for children.  Yoga is known for its non-competitive nature and serves as a compliment to children’s sports, athletics and artistic endeavors. Children learn to build a deep and balanced relationship to their body and breath. When children learn to breathe deeply, all systems of the body become toned and regulated and the body balances from the inside out.  Maureen Crowley, owner of Yoga Dreams, says, “…through quiet meditations, games, breathing exercises and circle discussions, children are encouraged to be themselves and learn how to listen to their conscious, to their inner wisdom.”  The results are a relaxed nervous system, ease of digestion, strengthening and lengthening of the muscles, a density of growing bones and a greater sense of self. 

I have seen countless instances of kids wobbling and wiggling their bodies trying their hardest to balance their tree pose. It is so incredibly rewarding to see their focus increase, their muscles and bones grow stable and strong with a consistent practice. Then the day comes where they stick their tree pose and root it solid. Their grin from ear to ear is unmistakably pride and confidence in their sense of accomplishment.  

Children are the future, so how are we setting them up for success? 

As they grow older, kids begin learning who they are and what they love doing.  Through the practice of yoga, kids learn how to calm themselves in tough situations. Yoga aids in their ability to relax through a tough test or a conflict between friends at recess. With stress and attention disorders at an all time high, it is essential that youngsters are provided with tools to combat these challenges. 

One of my very first yoga students, a four year old boy named Noah, had a lot of excessive energy, (as most young boys do) and not a lot of understanding of how to channel it. We would practice together every week and halfway through class he would exclaim, ”…is Yoga over yet?”  Often times I wondered if he was actually benefiting from his experience.  And then, one afternoon, after missing class the week prior, his mother shared a story that removed my doubts.  When he learned that he wasn’t going to yoga that day, he firmly told her, “I have to go!  It's the only thing that settles my body.”  What was not yet visible to my eyes was deeply felt by him, and at such a young age. What an awakening that was for me as a teacher. It was clear that Yoga had become his healing, a way of settling the restless body.

So what happens in a kids yoga class?

Classes have similar elements to adult yoga classes, yet are quite different in structure.  Where adult classes can take a somewhat linear approach, we take a more interactive and collaborative method with the kids using structure and non-structured activities. When witnessing these non-structured activities, parents may doubt that their child is progressing from what looks like utter chaos. Those moments of chaos are the moments where the child truly gets to explore who they are.  From teachers at school, to parents at home- kids are constantly being told who to be and how to behave. The aim of yoga for kids is to find a balance between discipline, structure & limitless self expression. Through the activities that may not have a clear linear path, children gain great freedom and release to have fun.  Certain activities encourage them to speak up and share what they feel and see, while other moments of class offer a chance to listen deeply.

Kids classes are tailored to opening up their vivid imagination as we travel the world, one Yoga pose at a time.  Through the practice of yoga, they learn about ways to take care of that world with recycling, honoring all of the animals and living creatures of the planet and find a deeper, more meaningful connection to the natural world.  Most yoga poses have originated from animals and elements of the earth, and identifying with those elements can help kids to find greater love and appreciation for their environment.  Through Yoga, they learn kinetically and intuitively -- ultimately giving them a chance to find union with who they are and the world that surrounds them.> 

I have had the opportunity to meet and teach lots of kids at many different studios and schools throughout Los Angeles.  I feel truly blessed to share this practice with the youth.  kids yoga has brought me closer to my inner child – reminding me to keep a light, open heart and find the joy in all that is.

Namaste

 

Denise teaches weekly kids yoga classes at The Jade Apple in North Hollywood, Ca.  For details, visit  www.jadeappleyoga.com

 

 

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