Yoga is movement for children, offers relaxation, trains everything from motor skills to imagination to emotional control. Children’s yoga brings the Indian teachings of movement closer to children – in a way that is suitable for children.
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Children’s Yoga: Throwing Off Worries, Stretching The Body, Learning Patience With Oneself
Schools, daycare centers and studios have been increasingly offering children’s yoga for a good two years now. Yoga for children is designed to get the little ones moving, to promote relaxation, stress reduction and mindful interaction. A few years ago, yoga was still the leisure sport of those wearing organic sandals in wide batik shirts and harem pants, but today managers and housewives alike do yoga.
What was originally a method of helping people with limited mobility to improve their quality of life has become a lifestyle in Germany.
But what are the benefits of yoga for children, apart from the exercise? Does it really relax children? Can it even help children concentrate better, improve their performance at school?
One thing is certain: Not all yoga is the same. For adults, there are countless different schools and teachings, different methods and ways of exercising physically in the form of yoga. Much of it can be confidently booked under lifestyle: Goat yoga, yoga combined with stand-up paddling and naked yoga are just as unsuitable for children as hot yoga and beer yoga.
For children, it’s more about awakening an awareness of their own body and mental state. So how do you teach fidgety first graders who are overwhelmed by the number space to 10 to focus on their own breathing? How do you teach children who are just learning to stand on one leg the sun salutation?
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An Idea Born Out Of Desperation
At the beginning of the trend children’s yoga is a desperate teacher who had to deal with a multinational class in Berlin. And at some point, she didn’t know how to handle the children with very different national, but always difficult social backgrounds in the class.
Teacher Petra Proßowsky at Niederlausitz Elementary School in Berlin, had already been doing yoga herself for ten years when she made the first attempt in her class in 1990. She asked the children to think about nothing at all with their eyes closed, and then told them a little story.
Today, teachers would call this exercise a“dream journey” or “fantasy journey.” The children were thrilled and wanted more of it.
So what does this have to do with children’s yoga? The children first sat motionless in the classroom and learned to perceive themselves. They listened intently. In the next step, their teacher improvised movement sequences and invented verses for them, and at the end of each lesson there was a short fantasy journey.
In yoga for children, the physical exercises are limited to certain movements; concentration on the breath plays a less important role than with adults.
The yoga club for the first classes quickly became so well known that yoga was on the schedule. Mothers participated.
Niederlausitz Elementary School in Berlin was the first elementary school to include yoga as a required subject in its program.
Teachers and parents noticed how the rather fidgety children became calmer. The children treated each other with more respect. And the ability to concentrate increased enormously.Also interesting:
Study Situation Is Clear: Yoga For Children Makes Stress Resistant
A few years have passed since 1990, and what happened at the Berlin elementary school did not go unnoticed. There has been movement in yoga, so to speak. Scientific studies have looked into the issue and found that children’s yoga actually makes the little ones more stress resistant.
When children get moving regularly with yoga, they are better able to regulate their emotions. They can concentrate better. Children’s yoga has now been developed as a short-term program by scientists.
Numerous children’s yoga books and DVDs, even CDs with suggestions have been published by various publishers and authors. They all repeatedly emphasize what various scientific studies have found.
Yoga For Children Improves
- Motor Skills.
- Body Awareness.
- Social Behavior.
- The Subjective Satisfaction.
Teachers, parents and exercise instructors in sports can now be trained in children’s yoga. It is really just a matter of making movement tangible for children. Yoga for children dispenses with incense sticks and batik robes, mantra and the Namasté greeting.
Most of the movements and sequences of movements have animal names and put the children in the role of the respective animals.
If you stretch and tuck like a cat, crouch down like a turtle or the like, your whole attention is on your body.
In this way, the children can trace the individual muscles, tendons and ligaments in their bodies, consciously concentrating on individual limbs.
And if the exercises and movements are then packaged in an appealing short story, the whole thing is even more fun.
Yoga for kids also comes without accessories: The exercises also bring relaxation if you do without yoga socks, yoga pants, yoga cushions, yoga mats and yoga candles. While the “trappings” help adults to fully engage in yoga – it works great for kids without them.
How Exactly Does Yoga Work For Children?
Yoga basically addresses the human being in its entirety as a thinking, feeling, moving and social being.
How exactly yoga works can be split up. In the literature, we talk about the physical aspects, the emotional aspects, the mental aspects and the creative aspects of the human being or his personality.
To understand how exactly yoga affects the body, for example, one must understand how the body works. Yoga for kids addresses the skeleton, muscles and joints.
In children’s yoga, elasticity and flexibility are encouraged, as well as proper posture. One should be possible without tension and without effort.
The nervous system as well as the hormonal system are addressed rather indirectly. They are responsible for the feelings and are slowly stimulated by the movements of yoga.
Children’s yoga does not deal with breathing as extensively as yoga for adults, but children are also encouraged to practice various breathing techniques. They learn to use their lung capacity better and breathe efficiently.
Emotional or behavioral aspects include both hyperactive behavior and the ability to relax. All emotions are involved here. In the teachings of yoga, emotional disorders are attributed to an imbalance between the mental component and the vital component.
Yoga exercises are meant to calm down exuberant energies and to stimulate when energy is too low. Through this, children can develop their personality and achieve inner peace and balance.
The mental aspect includes abilities such as concentration, memory and reasoning. Yoga stimulates these abilities and provides balance in the conscious, subconscious and unconscious mind.
Since every movement in yoga is designed to activate both hemispheres of the brain, children benefit holistically.
And so all aspects in yoga can be explained individually. Not only in medical and psychological terms is children’s yoga now quite well researched.
Pedagogy has also dealt with the different approaches of the various yoga schools. Not all of them are equally suitable for children. But in principle, yoga is beneficial for all children.
Even children with physical and mental limitations get moving in a positive way with yoga. The earlier they are exposed to children’s yoga, the greater their gain.
What Is Yoga For Children Or Adults Actually?
The term yoga comes from Sanskrit, an ancient Indian dialect. In German, the word means something like “connection.” Yoga is not so much a sport as a philosophy that has existed for several thousand years: Hatha yoga is very body-oriented. The goal of the worldwide spread form of yoga is to keep the body flexible. Tension should not be able to form in the first place.
Hatha yoga alternates tension and relaxation. However, the connection between body and mind is emphasized. The physical posture is always an expression of the inner state of mind. But if now the mental state finds expression in physical tension or relaxation, conversely the body can influence the mood and feeling.
If a certain movement is repeated regularly, it not only influences the momentary mood, but also affects the entire mind. At least this is the theory behind hatha yoga.
The various exercises are designed to keep the body healthy and flexible – and the mind as well. The human being should experience himself as a unity.
So yoga for kids is more than just a bit of storytelling and arm stretching. Children like to join in the movements because they have a natural urge to be in motion. In yoga, they experience their bodies in a whole new way.
From the age of about three, children can be introduced to yoga if they are guided by an experienced teacher who is specially trained in children’s yoga.
The sessions of children’s yoga begin with a movement game that loosens the body. Then the children should consciously breathe in and out. Breathing is very important in the various yoga poses.
Breathing is explained to children through pictures: strong exhalation is like a wind sweeping over mountains – and even exhaling with this wind can already release psychological tensions. Only then do the children get involved with the various postures and movements.
The yoga sessions are concluded with a small ritual, which is intended to ease the children’s transition into everyday life. Parallels to yoga for adults are naturally present in this structure of the exercise units.
Children Are Anchored In The Here And Now
Because children have such direct access to themselves and their environment, they don’t really need yoga. Actually. In fact, very few children today sit on their heels while playing, run through the forest or climb trees. Many children spend their time in front of the television and the computer, they move too little.
Today’s very demanding school also contributes to this, which not only takes longer every day than 20 years ago, but also requires many extra hours and tutoring in the afternoon.
More sports is not necessarily the right solution. Extracurricular activities keep children additionally busy – they hardly have time to ground themselves and engage with themselves.
This is exactly where children’s yoga comes in. Although it is yet another recreational activity that further complicates children’s already complex daily lives, children do benefit from yoga and emerge from the practice sessions relaxed.
However, children’s yoga cannot be completely separated from the trend towards self-optimization: when it comes to promoting concentration and social skills, respect and memory, it is also always about performance and school or, later, performance and career.
And then, of course, one may also ask whether yoga is exercise for the child for the child’s sake, or whether it is just about social constraints to conformity again.