Yoga practice has gained popularity in the West over the past two decades as people have recognized the powerful health and general well-being benefits. More recently, utilizing the practice with children has become common. Whether in P.E. class or as an after-school activity, teaching kids yoga classes offers a plethora of advantages. Creative practice stimulates the senses while strengthening and stretching the body, an element that is crucial during development.
Yoga is beneficial to kids in many ways. Because children encounter emotional, social, and physical challenges or conflicts, the breathing techniques, behavioral guidelines, and physical postures utilized in yoga can be incredibly valuable for them. It is a practice that children can do anywhere, anytime without the constraints of a specific venue and equipment. Practicing yoga enhances physical flexibility, refines balance and coordination, cultivates focus and concentration, and boosts self-esteem and confidence, especially for kids who are not overly athletic or otherwise active. Although it is beneficial for children of all ages, it has been found to be particularly helpful for kids with special needs, such as autism or ADHD. Additionally, the breathing, concentration, poses, and the way kids learn to act or react to situations throughout their practice can lead to inquisitiveness and an understanding of sense of self.
For instructors, it is important to remember that children are different from adults. While the latter may expect a long and disciplined sequence, kids have different needs and thus require the skills to be presented in diverse ways. There are a variety of factors to consider when designing a class for tots. They may not want to be there and are just being forced by their parents. After a long day of school, they are tired, hungry, and have exhausted their limited attention span. Because of these aspects, it is essential to use creative techniques that get each child proactively involved in the class. This can be done by incorporating play, meaningful sequences, stories, and music, to name a few. Having fun through play is an enjoyable and effective method of meditation and is indispensable. Instructors should constantly be revamping their lessons with new material and should come to class with a definitive game-plan and goals.
Every good teacher also needs a few fool-proof games to liven up the class. These can be completed as a warm-up activity or during a break from quiet meditation and poses. Even a short, few minute game will have rejuvenating effects on the children’s attention and attitude. Simple twists on old games such as Duck, Duck, Goose and freeze tag, in which yoga “animal” poses can replace the traditional rules, and the addition of animal sounds to poses such as cat and cow are easy ways to spice up any class and allow children to be expressive.
Most children, especially younger ones, will have no interest in a boring history or Sanskrit lesson, so teachers must find a way to make these elements age-appropriate and relatable to the young students’ lives. While yoga is a great tool for teaching children self-discipline, it should not replace creative expression and play. The experience should always be nourishing to the body and the mind, with students leaving the class happy, energized, and excited to come back again.