a blog from seedling
As carefree summer days begin to fade into the start of school, our thoughts turn to the familiar juggle. Back to reasonable bedtimes, early mornings, homework, and routines. If only we could bend back time like a yogi's upward bow pose!
For many of us, the exercise of yoga means more than stretching out — it's a place to calm our minds and get centered amid the busyness of life. Although adult stress is different than that of our kids, the ancient Hindu practice has great benefits for little minds and bodies. Studies even show that kids who've taken to the mat say they’re able to concentrate better during the day, pay closer attention in school, and focus more clearly on tasks. Here are a few ways to incorporate yoga in your child’s life that will leave them feeling inspired.
Once it was thought that kids learned either visually, verbally, or kinesthetically. Recent research suggests that there are actually eight different ways children can develop and express their intelligence. So drop the books, leave the paper and pens on the table and spread out in the backyard or across the family room floor to enjoy yoga together.
By introducing your children to yoga, you'll deepen their love of play, encourage inner awareness, foster self-esteem, and spark creativity. Literally and figuratively, yoga teaches kids to look at things from different perspectives and activates imaginative thinking. So it probably comes as no surprise that the aptly named "child's pose" is one that opens them up to creativity. Amy Lynch, yoga teacher and writer for MindBodyGreen, explains that it resets our minds to dream and pretend:
As children our imaginations ran wild. Kids have the ability to turn tree houses into castles and the backyard into forests.... Child's Pose can return you back to that feeling as a child of being "off in your own world." With your forehead relaxing to the floor allowing pressure to easy the front of the skull and the arms next to the ears, we cut off sight and a bit of sound. We are seemingly alone with just the sound of our breath. This is a great opportunity to relax, breathe and ease the mind.... [and] just being "alone" on the mat, in your own little world.
Strike a Pose
Kids are intrigued by the physical shapes of poses and find amusement in their names, many of which are inspired by nature and wildlife. Get kids engaged by telling them the pose name and ask them to envision they are that thing. Start with simple poses like downward-facing dog, tree pose, lion pose, mountain pose, and cat pose. Many animal-inspired breathing techniques are also appealing to kids, such as “bunny breaths,” which keeps kids alert and helps to increase attention span. Exploring yoga through the lens of an animal not only makes it wildly fun, but it inspires kids to experiment with movement, sound, and storytelling.
Sure, breathing is an involuntary function, but oddly our minds have a funny way of repressing the instinct to breathe fully and evenly. Stop and pay attention to your breathing right now. Are you taking short, shallow breaths or inhaling deeply to the bottom of your lungs? Think about what children do when they’re throwing a tantrum. Do you tell them to take a deep breath?
Breathing plays a crucial part in how our minds work and bodies react. Teaching children to pay attention to their breath has many benefits. Breathing helps kids learn to calm themselves from stress and anxiety, relax their minds, and control their energy to help them think more clearly.
Show your child how to take deep breaths while counting to ten. It may sound cliché, but it will help calm their nerves and focus their minds in any setting: before a school presentation, piano recital, soccer game, etc. If they have a specific problem they’re trying to solve, encourage them to sit quietly, take deep breaths, and visualize potential solutions. Kids will gain a great sense of pride when they’re able to find an answer to a problem on their own, and are more likely to be proactive problem-solvers as they grow, rather than learning to depend on an adult to offer solutions.
You've likely felt many of these benefits yourself — the love and light that lingers after a yoga class. Similarly, your little yogis will carry this positive energy forward in other activities each day. Maybe they'll even call it magic.