Karma kids: introducing yoga to your children

2 Mar

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Yoga has become synonymous with the goal of achieving peace and calm, something many parents believe is lacking in their children’s lives. Unless you have studied and practiced Yoga yourself you may not be aware that the practice of Yoga, as we know it in the west, one of physical stretches, postures and relaxation is only one out of the 8 limbs of Yoga as a holistic system devised to help bring health and peace to both body and mind.

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The Yoga postures (asana) with which we are most familiar with in the west today were developed over 5,000 years ago in the east when the ancients observed nature and the movements of animals. The close link with postures, animals and nature is exactly what lends Yoga to being an ideal practice for little ones to get involved with. Much like children, animals are deeply connected to the present moment and live in harmony with their environment.

Nowadays, more and more children have become caught up in the over-stressed and disconnected way of life that has been created since life became industrialised. Now the disconnection with an ongoing, loving parental presence alongside the use of electrical and artificial over-stimulation have become the new pillars of society. There is little time left over for children to explore and play in nature, connecting with the wonders of the great outdoors amongst a trusted tribe from whom they can learn. All of this has created much dis-ease and dis-harmony in our little ones.

Despite all of this, the majority of babies and toddlers have retained their natural flexibility and a care-free curiosity to explore the world, two perfect ingredients for introducing them into Yoga. For the first 2-3 years of a child’s life learning is achieved predominantly through observing those closest to them. This is why you are likely to find that your child develops a keen interest in whatever you as the parents engage in most often, even television unfortunately for some!

When is the best time to start yoga with children? The answer is as soon as possible, through practicing that which you wish to teach, your own Yoga practice. As a new mum you can begin practicing post-natal yoga as early as 6 weeks after birth if there have been no complications. If however you have had a c-section then it is best to wait 12 weeks. Following that you can then participate in one of the many classes designed for babies who are not yet walking (usually during the first year of the child’s life). Or if you prefer there are some lovely DVD sets which provide post-natal and ‘baby and me’ yoga such as Tara Lee’s collection.

If you choose to maintain a self-practice at home this will encourage your child to observe and explore Yoga even if the sessions you manage are only 10-15 minutes. You are not only giving your own body and mind some much needed TLC but also inspiring your little one with entertainment that does not require a battery or a plug!

Once the child reaches the age of 2 and a half to 3 years there is a wonderful opportunity to use Yoga as a tool to enhance play and make story time more interactive, providing a fun and loving way to connect with your child on their level.

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Many popular children’s books can be turned into a basic and fun yoga routine. This is how yoga was taught to children traditionally in the east, through story telling. As long as the story has animals or nature incorporated then yoga postures can be included. Familiar postures to Yoga practitioners include downward dog, dancer, snake, mountain, sun salutation, camel, bridge and many more. To create a balanced and flowing routine for kids you do not have to be a yoga teacher, you should however get acquainted with yoga routines by practicing yourself to become familiar with the components of a yoga class.

Below is an example of a routine based on Eric Carle’s ‘The hungry caterpillar’. Notes for each posture are numbered below the photos and correspond to the order of the pictures from top to bottom.

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1 Begin in child’s pose (egg)

2. Raise up on to all fours ( breaking out of egg) and begin to move in cat, cow pose like a caterpillar, after several repetitions jump up to standing and say hello to the warm sun by reaching up to the sun one arm at a time, repeat a few times.

3. Begin to look for food using the eyes around the clock exercise in both directions.

4. Come up into tree pose and pick 1 apple from above your head, climb the tree using opposite elbow to opposite knee movement and pick 2 pears, repeat climb, pick 3 plums and so on until you reach 5 oranges.

5. Transition down to floor using a basic sun salutation or any other way you find fun then jump through to sitting ready for forward head to knee or ‘sandwich’ posture. Go through different foods and spread, chop and throw them down your ‘leg sandwich’ before closing the sandwich top ( bend forward and reach towards your toes).

6.  Now lean forward to grab foot in ‘bow and arrow’ pose and bring foot towards mouth as if reaching to pick a leaf off the branch and then eating it, repeat on other side

7. As caterpillar gets fat, spread legs wide to make room for his bigger tummy and curl down in to ‘turtle’ pose to build and go inside the cocoon.

8. Bring feet touching together in butterfly pose and make flying movements with your wings (legs) either rocking from side to side on bottom or pushing knees gently up and down in unison. You can also add hand movements as extra wings or antennas. You might even raise one leg in the sky and balance followed by the same on the other side. Also if you’re brave enough, both legs raised together can be added in. A song can also be sung at this point such as ‘fly like a butterfly’ by Shakta kaur Khalsa.

A few general points for practicing yoga with 2-6 year olds: Don’t hold postures for too long (no longer than 10 seconds), keep it flowing. Children learn best when as many of their senses are engaged as possible so engage their visual sense by demonstrating the posture, use verbal description of the posture to engage their audio sense and make silly sounds to go with the posture (especially for animals). If necessary, gently help guide their body into the correct position. You may also like to include soft music alongside the Yoga story and end the session with a 5 minute lying down relaxation accompanied with a guided visualization CD (Relax kids do a great selection). Furthermore, placing a scented eye pillow to cover the eyes will help the child to draw their senses inwards and enter into a deeper state of relaxation. If you wish to explore practicing breathing with the child to develop a deeper breath, a soft toy or bath duck placed on the abdomen will aid in providing a visual cue to the rhythm of the breath.

Once kids reach 7 years plus, yoga can be used as a great tool to help with homework. For example, triangle pose to help visually illustrate angles in the equilateral, isosceles and scalene triangles. Also on the subject of Maths, the warrior series can be used to illustrate the different angles: right-angle, obtuse angle and acute angle.

Partner work with either kids together or an adult with the kid will aid in learning interpersonal skills such as co-operation, communication, relating and sharing.

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At this age instead of integrating story books in to the routine which can be quite lengthy, you may wish to pick a theme of interest such as olympics, around he world or outer space and base the postures around this topic. Using their creative  imagination they can weave their own story. Be sure to keep criticism out of Yoga for this age group as they are particularly sensitive to judgements. 

Sharing Yoga with children helps them to connect with themselves and their body, learning to trust their own instincts. Unlike most physical activities nowadays, Yoga is non-competitive and all-inclusive no matter what the child’s ability level. Children will have an opportunity to acknowledge and nurture their own special talents in a fun and physical, non-pressured way. Affirmations can be added alongside Yoga postures to boost self-esteem and confidence.

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Yoga can teach us to open up to change, asking questions and finding our own answers along the way. Aside from the obvious benefits of maintaining flexibility and muscle tone, on a physical level, Yoga can help children connect deeper with the breath which brings in more vital energy, decreases stress hormones and aids in detoxing and re-vitalizing the whole body.

Ultimately though, Yoga allows children to find a safe space deep within which is quiet and calm and provides a welcome retreat when the changes, challenges and confusion of the fast paced world of growing up becomes overwhelming.

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6 Responses to “Karma kids: introducing yoga to your children”

  1. OMazing Kids March 12, 2013 at 12:57 am #

    Fun ideas! I updated my The Very Hungry Caterpillar post on OMazing Kids to include a link to your post: http://omazingkidsllc.com/2013/03/02/celebrate-the-very-hungry-caterpillar-day-with-kids-yoga/

  2. escapadas relax en cataluña March 22, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    I’m no longer sure where you’re getting your information, however great topic. I must spend some time studying more or figuring out more. Thanks for magnificent information I was in search of this information for my mission.

  3. Physical Therapy Ridgewood May 22, 2013 at 11:57 am #

    Amazing yoga poses! Of course this yoga can increase my children body and mind strength. I will absolutely do this workout with my children.

  4. Kristopher Lowthorp May 23, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    I simply want to tell you that I’m beginner to blogging and honestly loved your blog site. Most likely I’m planning to bookmark your site . You actually come with incredible posts. Kudos for sharing with us your website page.

  5. Edwina Gillman May 29, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    Wow, incredible blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is excellent, as well as the content!. Thanks For Your article about Karma kids: introducing yoga to your children | mamanaturally .

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Celebrate The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day with Kids Yoga | OMazing Kids - March 12, 2013

    […] More ideas on this mamanaturally blog post. […]

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