In Week 4 of our programme we turn our attention back to the children. This week we explore Yoga and how it can help them to build self-esteem.
“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
Louisa May Alcott, “Little Women”
We ended Week 3 of the programme looking at self-love for parents; working with the adage that to best care for our children we have to care for ourselves. Well, like anything new, self-love can be tricky and requires a lot of practice for it to become second nature. Therefore before rushing into learning and experimenting with more self-love techniques, this week our emphasis is back on the children and using yoga as a method of building self-esteem and creating mindfulness and relaxation. For this week I’d like you to continue working with the methods we discussed last week and remember to continue using the techniques we learnt in Weeks 1 and 2.
Yoga for Children – the Theory
The main emphasis of Week 4 of the programme is the beautiful practice of yoga; only for those who are familiar with yoga for adults and have never experienced yoga for children, this may turn out to be yoga like you’ve never seen it before.
Ask any yoga devotee why they do yoga and they’ll give you a variety of different reasons but ones that you will hear time and time again are for stress relief, because it helps them to relax, unwind, feel peaceful, grounded or balanced. It’s no different for our children. In a world where parents are often hurrying them, there are pressures at school, they use technology on a daily basis and for ever increasing amounts of time, and they partake in competitive sports and hobbies, our children live very busy, often hurried and hectic lives. This can influence the amount of joy and relaxation that they experience and unfortunately not always in a good way.
By doing yoga our children can experience many benefits that they can use and take with them to help navigate their way through many of life’s challenges. Much has been written about these benefits but for the purpose of our programme the main ones are (in no particular order):
An increase in Body Awareness
Yoga maintains flexibility and strength through poses that involve balancing, back-bends, strengthening and twisting.
It teaches children to use their bodies in healthy ways
It teaches them to listen to their bodies as they assume different poses
Managing ‘stress’ through a combination of breathing, movement and meditation
Yoga naturally provides an outlet for children to safely release stress through movement
Breathing techniques, both on their own and with poses, help children to dissipate stress and tension
All yoga sessions end with quiet time for deep relaxation. This helps to relax and quiet both their mind and body
Meditation is often incorporated into yoga sessions. The benefits of which are discussed in Week 2 of this programme.
Building concentration and an appreciation of the ‘now’
Some yoga poses are fast paced whilst others are slow moving. This, and the interchange between the two, teaches children the skills of focus and concentration.
We often miss the most valuable part of life; the Now. Yoga encourages our children to focus on the Now as when they are concentrating on a pose they are doing, or on how they are breathing, they are living in the present; and this, after all, is all that really exists.
Increasing confidence and self-esteem
Yoga gives children physical strength, flexibility and the ability to focus. In turn this teaches them to have trust and confidence in their own bodies and builds their self-esteem.
Yoga for Children – the Practice
If you’ve only ever seen adults do yoga and never children then you may just need to suspend your disbelief and expectations. Both of my children were very excited to try yoga so they enthusiastically chose a children’s class from my Food Matters TV Subscription (a jungle themed class was chosen for their first adventure), placed their mats in front of the TV and started doing what the lady prompted them to do. It was all going so well…then it turned into what could only be described as a comedy sketch. Having not done yoga before they both, but particularly my youngest, struggled with some of the poses. There was some wobbling and then some falling over. This prompted riotous laughter from my daughter and then uncontrollable fits of giggles from both of them. The TV was paused and calm was eventually restored. Five minutes later and my son was in fits of laughter at his sister’s lion impression which to be fair sounded more like a cat being strangled…you get the picture. Our first yoga session was the funniest thing I’d seen in a long time. There was no elegance or grace but it was great fun and they enthusiastically looked forward to their next session. That can be nothing less than a great result.
Over the week there were a couple of lessons that I learnt about yoga with children that I’d like to share:
Lesson 1: Let go and let it be
Have no agenda and no expectations of what yoga with children will be like / should be like. Don’t worry if they loose attention or get distracted and loose where they are up to, just gently guide them back to the activity when the time is right.
Lesson 2: Choose an age appropriate class that your child will enjoy; the format of which doesn’t matter
In an ideal world we’d all attend classes run by our local yoga teacher, but life’s not always like that. There may not be any children’s classes available where you live, or they may not be on at the days and times you can attend or you may just prefer to do yoga in the comfort of your own home. Don’t worry about it. Do what is best for you and best for your child. Whilst we started with an online class as part of a subscription package, there are other online options such as dedicated websites and video platforms such as You Tube you can try or there are numerous DVDs available. This may involve a little bit of trial and error on your part to find what your child really likes.
Finding a class (local or online) that is age appropriate is really important. Start easy and build up gradually. I actually found that my children preferred the yoga classes for slightly younger children the first time around because it helped them to relax into something new without the worry that they could not keep up.
Lesson 3: Be consistent
Remember to do your yoga practice at least 2 times per week; more if you are able to. Think of yoga as a destination rather than a journey. Teach your children that consistent practice is the way forward as this will lead to tangible results that they can both see and feel.
Lesson 4: Have Fun!
If for whatever reason your child is not enjoying yoga don’t force them to do it. Activities in this programme should be enjoyable and nothing should become a chore.
So there we have Week 4 of the programme. In Week 5 we will be looking at Gratitude and Appreciation followed by Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) in Week 6.
Please Note: the information contained in this blog is not a substitute for appropriate medical care. Should you or your child have a medical condition you are advised to contact your GP or other appropriately trained health professional.