By Donna Davidge
With Mommy and Me Yoga classes which include infants in yoga classes, the natural progression would be for children to learn yoga at a young age. With the boom in yoga popularity in recent years it is possible that children may get exposed to yoga and benefit from learning it. In New York City there is an organization called Bent on Learning that offers yoga in the high school system.
For children to become involved in yoga at six or seven years old is easy if you do it the right way. I worked with a group of children that age that quickly picked up the names of the poses in English as many are based on nature, especially animals.
Children as young as three years old can be introduced to the idea of putting their bodies in the shape of different animals. They can be a frog and jump around! They can be a cat and and a cow, a rabbit, a camel, a cobra or a sphinx. If the parents do yoga they can invite the children to learn with them.
From sitting in school children’s backs can start to tighten at a young age. We think of children as inherently flexible but in the group I taught some were already tight. Children also pattern their parents’ breathing and physical posturing by as early as age seven. Most adults breathe in a shallow manner, not the way we breathed when we were born. We soon begin to breathe like our parents. If children are taught that the breath can calm them it can help with the overload on our systems (stress) that modern times bring.
Some parents might have a concern that yoga has a religious connotation. Yoga works with the breath and mind as well as the body. It is a science and an art. If you delve into it deeply there are mantras and sound that affect the energy. With children the use of simple songs can be the way to use sound in yoga. It does not have to be mantras that some think are religious.
Yoga means to balance the energy of the sun and moon within us. Besides the names of animals children can become aware of body parts through yoga. The belly is their sun center and having them breath there you can tell them will help them feel bright. You might then have them place their hands on the chest and feel their heart, taking about how it physically pumps blood through the body and how it is the area where we learn to love our self and others. A simple song like “ May the long time sun shine upon you, all love surround you and the pure light within you guide your way on” can be sung at the end of a class.
Yoga helps children use excess energy in a positive way at the same time as it teaches them methods to be calm. So many children have ADD and other learning disorders that yoga can only help these conditions, teaching focus and concentration.
- Donna Davidge has been teaching yoga and meditation in New York City since 1985 and owns and operates the acclaimed Sewall House Yoga Retreat in Maine since 1997 in the summer and fall months.