Many people consider yoga to be associated with religion, it is not. Yoga is a form of meditation, relaxation, and exercise. Like adults, children encounter emotional, social, and physical challenges, and a dedicated yoga practice can be incredibly valuable for them.
Below is a list of how children benefit from yoga:
It Enhances Physical Flexibility Yoga promotes physical strength because kids learn to use all of their muscles in new ways.
It Refines Balance and Coordination Balance is a key element of yoga. Coordination is also closely tied to balance. Some yoga teachers and occupational therapists use finger yoga and other specialized techniques to help children with gross and fine motor coordination.
It Develops Focus and Concentration The act of practicing poses encourages children to clear their mind and focus on the effort. As a result of this single focus to achieve a particular pose or stay balanced, yoga helps children to focus and concentrate.
It Boosts Self-Esteem and Confidence Yoga teaches them to persevere, be patient, and work toward their goals. A yoga teacher can only offer guidance; it is the child who has to work to succeed. Therefore, when a child masters a pose, it gives him confidence and self-esteem.
Below are a few poses the you can do with your kids for an evening of meditation.
1. Stand up tall. Take three to five deep breaths. 2. On the next inhale, lift your arms above your head. Press your legs and feet down toward the ground and stretch your spine and waist toward the sky.
1. Stand up straight and tall. Breathe in and out and feel your legs reaching toward the ground and your head reaching toward the sky. Look at one spot in front of you to keep your eyes steady. 2. Now lift your right leg by bending your knee. Breathe evenly, looking at one spot in front of you. Place your right leg on your left leg, above the knee (or below the knee if that's more comfortable). Now stretch your arms up like branches.
1. Sit on the floor and place the soles of your feet together. Hold on to your feet or ankles, and let your knees drop toward the floor. Sit up with a tall spine. 2. Imagine that you are a butterfly with beautiful wings stretching out from your spine and with long antennae reaching out from your head.
1. Stand with your legs wide apart. Take a big breath in and stretch your arms out to the sides at shoulder height. Breathe out and relax your arms and shoulders, but keep your arms at shoulder height. 2. Now turn your feet toward the right side. Breathe in and bend your right knee as you breathe out. Put your right hand on the floor next to your foot and reach the left arm by your ear as if you were raising your hand in class.
1. Stand up straight and tall. Take a big breath in. Reach your arms out to the sides at shoulder height as you breathe out. 2. Take another breath in and tip forward as you point one foot behind you. Exhale slowly. As you inhale again, lift your chest and lean forward while you lift the pointed foot in the air behind you. Try to keep your chest and back in line with your lifted foot. 3. Try to keep your eyes on one spot. Stretch your arms to the sides and try to balance while you breathe in and out. Now try Airplane pose on the other side.
1. Lie on your belly. Breathe in and relax your body as you breathe out. Bend your knees and take hold of your ankles behind you. As you breathe in, lift your head and chest and legs off of the floor. Pull your feet away from your back to stretch your chest and belly. 2. As you slowly breathe in and out in the Bow pose, lift your head and feet toward the ceiling. Feel the arch in your back. 3. When you are ready, come down slowly on an exhalation, and rest on your belly.
Excerpted from The Kids' Yoga Deck: 50 Poses and Games (Chronicle Books, 2003), by Annie Buckley