The benefits of yoga are immense if it is introduced at a young age. Some of them include improved concentration, boosts self confidence, increases strength and stamina, increased sensory-motor function and a great stress buster.
Yoga, an ancient art of self-discipline has its roots in India thousands of years ago. Formulated and practiced by Indian saints meditating in the Himalayas, yoga is now a very popular form of exercise practiced in India as well as in many other countries. Experts consider yoga to be one of the best exercises which not only improves health, but is also the best tool to meet your inner self. Yoga is the best way to integrate the three fundamental things of life body, mind and spirit.
What is yoga?
The term ‘yoga’ in Sanskrit means to ‘integrate’. Integrating individual self with the Supreme self is the ultimate goal of a yogi. Although yoga seems to be philosophy, it is art and it is also science. There overwhelming scientific evidence confirming the health benefits bestowed by yoga.
What is yoga all about?
Yoga is interpreted by some as a form of physical exercise. On the other hand, some think that it is only a mental discipline, while others think it is a spiritual discipline. Each of them is right in its own way, but they are all wrong. In fact, yoga includes physical, mental and spiritual disciplines. Each of these three disciplines is very important for the functioning of an individual.
According to Patanjali, the saint who formulated yoga thousands of years ago, described what is yoga and its components in his treatise Yoga Sutras. Patanjali simplified yoga is a complex system which is divided into 8 angas or parts. These include
- Yama (universal moral commandments)
- Niyama (self purification by discipline)
- Asana (posture)
- Pranayama (rhythmic control of breath)
- Pratyahara (withdrawal and emancipation of the mind from the domination of the senses and exterior objects)
- Dharana (concentration)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (a state of super-consciousness achievable by an individual) (Iyenger BKS, The Illustrated Light On Yoga)
Can yoga be practiced by children?
Yes, yoga can be practiced by children. But, there is a minimum age limit set by many experts. The minimum age limit for yoga in children is at least 8 years of age. One of the major reasons why children below the age of 8 cannot be taught yoga is that their level of self-awareness is not as fine tuned as that of teens or adults.
For kids younger than 8 years of age, some simple and basic yogic postures can be taught. These include:
Corpse posture: Corpse posture or Shavasana is one of the simplest yoga postures. The posture is just to lie down on the floor while relaxing hands, legs and all the other parts. Yoga nidra, a special deep relaxation technique can be taught in Corpse posture.
Surya Namaskara: Surya Namaskara or Sun Salutation is another simple form of exercise which can be practiced on a daily basis. It is a sequential technique where in seven exercises are done in a sequence or cycle. This cycle can be repeated a few times in the beginning and later on the numbers can be increased.
Lion’s posture: Lion’s posture is perhaps one of the most loved postures by kids. Kids just love to roar like a lion. While some kids might get the roar right, other kids might fumble and that’s a moment for great laughter. (Yoga.com)
Cobra’s posture: Cobra’s posture is a simple stretching exercise that can be done by anyone. This is also particularly useful for children. Kids have a lot of flexibility and this posture would also be very good for them.
Tree posture: Tree posture is an important posture, especially for children. This posture improves the concentration of the practitioner. As we all know, concentration is the key to learning and education.
Breathing exercises: Breathing exercises of Pranayama can also be performed by children. Of course, some pranayama techniques are designed keeping in mind the capabilities of children. Or else, simple breathing which only involves deep breathing can be practiced in the beginning and later pranayama can be taken up. During inhaling try to be as positive as possible. In other words, being positive while inhaling, you draw in positive energy and while exhaling try to let go of bad experiences, bad feelings, or any bothering feelings.
Health benefits of yoga for children
Numerous health benefits are being given for yoga, some of which include
Improves concentration: Attention deficit is perhaps one of the major complaints from both parents and teachers in children. With yoga, concentration improves gradually. With concentration, memory also improves and his or her performance will improve drastically.
Increase in self-confidence: Apart from improving concentration, self-confidence is also very important to take a person forward in any field. The spirit of competition is found in almost all the fields and improving mere concentration is not enough. Only a confident person would achieve success and yoga practice imparts lot of positive attitude which gives rise to self-confidence.
Improves strength and stamina: Due to higher demand and increased stress levels in schools for various activities such as sports, art or dance, most kids lose their energy and enthusiasm in less time. This stress and loss of energy can be avoided by regular practice of yoga. (Calhoun, Create a Yoga Practice for Kids).
Increased sensory-motor function: Various studies have noted that kids practicing yoga developed their sensory-motor function. It is also noted to have an improved function in the central nervous system. (Galantino, 2008).
Eliminates stress: Stress has become an integral part of even a child’s life today. An average school going child has to keep up many things in school which include academics, sports, art, dance, plays, etc. Apart from these, competition is another stress building factor. Such stresses can be eliminated with regular yoga practice. (Galantino, 2008).
Optimum cardiac function: Optimum cardiac function is not only important for adults but also important for children as well. Breathing exercises or pranayama practiced in yoga have been noted to improve the cardiac function in youngsters. Kids pursuing sports can have an added advantage of extra stamina and lung power to perform well in many games. (Galantino, 2008).
Measures to be taken before practicing Yoga
Parents with kids who have physical conditions need to take doctor’s advice before allowing their kids start practicing yoga.
Approach only certified yoga trainer, as they also can determine the best yoga path for your child. Check for credentials of the yoga trainer beforehand.
These are few of the innumerable benefits that can be imparted to kids practicing yoga. There are many fun ways to practice yoga for kids. With a number of kids, yoga session can be made fun and interactive. Interactive yoga sessions not only provide health and mental benefits, but can also fill your child with positive attitude to the core.