by Catherine Lesage
Children’s yoga: a truly creative and playful experience
In their book Yoga for Children, Swati and Rajiv Chanchani (former students of BKS Iyengar) say:
"Many old Indian stories tell us about these virtuous sages and their wonderful world. These sages were like children. Everything fascinated them: shining star, tall mountains, flowing rivers, fierce beasts, beautiful birds…even little grasshoppers. The pious men lived close to nature."
Children are natural yoginis and are fascinated by the natural world. Since many asanas are inspired by nature and animals, children easily relate to the animated poses and are eager to engage in the experience. Concepts can be reinforced through cooperative games, stories, songs, drawing, creative breathing exercises and relaxation techniques.
Children's yoga is imaginative, dynamic, creative, sometimes noisy, and always educational. Children explore, pretend, imitate, and talk about nature, animals, the world around them, anatomy and physiology. Children are not just shown the poses, they are the poses; they bark like a dog, hiss like a snake, hum like bees, meow like a cat, roar like a lion.
Children's yoga is about sharing laughter and values through play and movement. It is offering the opportunity for kids to be kids within the context of animated and playful yoga poses and relaxation.
Childre's yoga: a different and unique yoga experience
Children's yoga is characterized by its liveliness. It is not always a quiet practice, although it can be at times. Children need and want to share their knowledge, they want to be the animals. It is a liberating, contagious, spontaneous, and creative experience. The children may create poses or vinyasa as they feel more confident. It is about a process of feeling good inside and out, experimenting, as opposed to aiming for precision when performing poses.
Music is an important part of children's yoga. Any type of music is appropriate, as long as it gets the children moving, grooving or simply relaxing. Music relevant to the lives of the children is an excellent motivator! Props are often used to enhance the experience: picture cards, stuffed animals, hoops are just a few examples.
Children's yoga requires novelty and variety as well as an open-mind. It is about teaching children at their level, as opposed to teaching mini-adults.
Children's yoga and its benefits
Many of the benefits of children's yoga are the same as for adults: flexibility, strength, body and breath awareness as well as calmness. In addition, it sparks their creative imagination and children get to socialize and cooperate through a variety of activities and games.
Yoga helps the children make connections between the environment and themselves and deepens their awareness by being and talking about animals and nature. They then start to understand the interdependence of all things as they uncover their inner and outer world. As they learn about themselves, they become more confident thus have a better self-esteem.
Children feel the effect of stress. Extra-curricular activities, higher expectations, busier schedules, less opportunity for exercise, video games, watching their busy parents are all factors that can contribute to anxiety and lack of motivation in children. Creating nourishing and motivating environments by providing tools to children to channel their energy in positve ways through yoga activities contribute to children becoming happier, stronger, healthier.
Children of all ages love to engage in a variety of meaningful movement experiences. Yoga is a form of physical exercise that unites body and mind through the breath while teaching them about their bodies, their abilities, their limitations, developing important movement skills where outer benefits spiral inward to their heart and soul.