How Yoga Can help your child
Melissa Jones from Dubai says that when her 8-year-old daughter Kelly began acting up in school and paying less attention to her studies, she opted to enrol her in yoga rather than swimming or ballet classes. Melissa elaborates, “I have done yoga myself for several years to help myself calm down and feel better. I searched online for a kids yoga class for Kelly and enrolled her. In less than two months I have seen a tremendous change in her habits. Her manners and even her concentration level have gone up. The best part is that she actually enjoys the classes…”
Like adults, kids benefit from regular practices that promote health and emotional balance. Yoga can empower children and teens alike as well as imbibe empathy and compassion and it’s no surprise that most children respond with enthusiasm. According to founder of Yogalates Bliss in Dubai and children’s yoga instructor Noura El-Imam, the benefits of yoga for children are holistic and children actually experience many of the same physical benefits adults do from practicing yoga. “Yoga strengthens children and helps them become more coordinated, more flexible and helps build overall endurance and core strength without even realising it,” she explains. “By practicing yoga, children learn how take control of the stress in their lives; a child worried about a test, for instance, might use the meditation or breathing techniques of yoga to help her calm down and focus.”
Essentially proper breathing, exercise and deep relaxation may be the powerful healing force needed for today’s kids as through yoga, children are able to maintain their flexibility, develop strength, sleep better, improve their levels of concentration and perform to their full potential at home and in school. The combination of breathing, posture work and relaxation/visualisation techniques help children to gain in self- confidence and come to terms with many of the physical and mental developmental changes they may be facing in these early years.
Kids who do yoga also learn to infuse a sense of self discipline into their daily lives without it being harsh or boring. El-Imam adds, “Yoga teaches children to have fun and move their bodies in a con-competitive environment and it is not about being right or wrong, or being best or worst.” There is no competition or ego but it is about bringing unity to one’s own life as yoga for kids teaches self-discipline as well. “As part of the practice of yoga, kids need to slow down, hold certain postures, breathe or think in a certain way,” she notes and yoga encourages children to master themselves rather than wait for an adult to control them.
In today’s world, too many children are at risk of being disenfranchised. Internet and video games can substitute for meaningful real-life connections. Yoga brings kids into the present moment, their own vitality and the community. Yoga for kids, says El-Imam, also enhances self-awareness. “Children who practice yoga learn early on to tune into their bodies,” she says and also self-esteem is increased as the children gain control over their bodies and minds. Balancing postures like Tree Pose (standing on one leg), airplane pose and eagle pose are challenging and rewarding at the same time when they accomplish a balance pose fully, they become ecstatic and this promotes self-focus, confidence and strength, she says and points out that yoga for kids can also be a way to strengthen families. “Yoga is an exercise that parents and children and even grandparents can practice and talk about together,” she says and as children participate in yoga with their families, they feel closer to their loved ones and show them what they’ve learned from their yoga practice of the day…sometimes even teaching their parents how to do yoga hence, self-confidence is built
According to Yogawoman expert Shana Meyerson, the founder of ‘mini yogis yoga for kids’ in Los Angeles, yoga helps build self-esteem and self-respect. A child’s yoga practice is a rare opportunity to do something without ever having to worry about being wrong. “Yoga promotes physical strength, encouraging children to use all of their muscles in new ways,” she says and this is great for non-athletic children who typically shy away from physical activity in fear of failure or being picked last. And best of all, in yoga, children learn to take turns, to be nice, and to respect others