The first day of school is around the corner. For many households, this transition brings a heavy dose of stress and anxiety for all family members. While children may adapt easily once the school year is underway, the first day of school looms with the inevitable change in schedule and the harrowing unknown of a new teacher. Not to mention those pesky cohorts Excitement & Anxiety rear their heads in anticipation of seeing old friends, and sometimes not so friendly classmates, again all together.
How Yoga Helps
While a kids’ yoga class may look different from a grown-up’s, the commonly known benefits are the same, and the age appropriate benefits are enriched!
Peace & Calm:
Through general focus on breathing and specific breathing exercises, kids can learn to calm their own nerves, to slow down their reaction time and to find a sense of self control. Practicing deep breathing in the morning on the way to school and at night before going to bed not only helps with morning and evening routines, but is a way to ensure that a calming breathe is easy to access as needed in the classroom, on the playground and on the field or stage. At Villager Yoga, we begin and end each class with “Peace Breaths” which allow us to harness our peace, feel our soothing breath and focus our energy right at our center.
Do a Peace Breath: Seated in a comfortable cross leg position, inhale slowly and make a circle with your arms as you raise them to your sides and overhead. Exhale slowly to bring your arms back down beside you. Inhale, repeat the circle and exhale, bring your hands together at your heart’s center while vibrating the word “Peace”. Repeat 3 times, keeping your breath and movement slow and even.
Focus, Concentration & Listening:
The poses practiced in a kids’ yoga class have numerous physical benefits, from building core strength, to enhancing flexibility and encouraging balance. One main intention behind the physical portion of our classes is to aid the development of proprioception, which is our brain sensing our body and telling it where we are in relation to the space around us. While many consider proprioception a sense itself, as we move our bodies in yoga, all five of our senses tune in as part of this development. “Step your right foot forward, place your left foot back, bend your right knee, focus your eyes straight ahead…”; as we work on developing our sense of physical self-awareness, we are increasing attentive listening skills, while enhancing an ability to focus and concentrate. Not only do better listening skills help kids to follow the teacher’s lessons and instructions, they also help with interpersonal interactions and social skills, which are invaluable and can be applied in every stage of life.
Practice Triangle Pose: Begin in Mountain Pose, standing up with feet together and arms by your side. Take one big step back with your left foot and put it flat on the ground. Your left foot will face sideways. Stretch your arms out wide over your legs. Put your right hand on your right leg. Reach your left hand straight to the sky. Look at your big toe on the right foot or your thumb on your left hand. Take 3 deep breaths. Repeat with the right foot stepping back.
Strength & Confidence
The mindfulness developed through breathing and working on poses for strength and balance helps children learn that discipline, within a desired activity, has a positive impact on their performance and contributes immensely to their self-confidence. This inspires playfulness in kids, allowing them to feel safe, confident and bold in trying new things and asking questions. They feel motivated to explore what they are capable of in a focused, calm and rewarding manner.
Don’t take my word for it, Jodi, age 7, has been practicing yoga at Villager Yoga for 3 years! We asked her for some insight on kids doing yoga:
Q: Why do you do yoga?
A: Because I like to stretch myself. Also, because I like to fall over and learn new poses.
Q: What do you do in yoga class?
A: We do a whole lot of different poses! We rest, and we ring the singing bowl. That’s my favorite part
Q: What do you like about doing yoga?
A: I like to do crow, a whole lot. I like that my mom does it too. I like when I do good at a new pose.
Q: Why do you think other kids should try yoga?
A: Because it’s good exercise, and fun!
Q: What else would you like people to know about yoga?
A: That it’s awesome!
Practice Crow Pose (best to do with an adult nearby):Begin in a frog squat. Place your hands down in front of you. Make them flat like big high fives. Keep your elbows tuck into your sides and bring your knees onto the backs of your arms, right above your elbows (you can also try squeezing the outside of your arms with your legs). Focus your eyes on the ground in front of your hands. Balance on your tip toes and make sure you are breathing! You may be able to lift your feet off the ground, maybe not yet! Just be sure not to jump in this pose.
Annie Damsky is the owner of Villager Yoga in Birmingham, Alabama. She teaches yoga to a variety of students, including families and kids of all ages. Fall Kids Yoga Series for ages 4-7 and 8-13 begin August 20. Learn more at villageryoga.com