Our attitude and approach towards life is defined in the early years of our childhood. Just like a potter carefully molding clay on the wheel to create beautiful pieces, children if nurtured with mindful practices like yoga and meditation can become healthy adults.
Stress and mental health issues are not only common in adults, but even children and adolescents face the challenges posed by modern day society, competition, peers and so on.
A research by US national library of Medicines stated that the ancient practice of yoga may help children and young people cope with stress and thus contribute positively to their mental health.
Benefits of Yoga for Children
Regular practice of yoga not only contributes positively towards children’s mental growth, but also emotionally regulates their thought process & behavior patterns. Some of the health benefits of yoga for children –
- Develops core strength and proper physical alignment
- Helps them connect to their inner feelings
- It enhances their academic performance
- Boost their immune system
- It improves concentration, focus, self awareness and self confidence
- Help them learn how to stay calm and be present in the moment
Here are some simple and easy yoga poses for children to practice with the help of adults at least three times a week. You can turn this practice into a fun and playful activity to get them interested.
Start by getting the kids to come in the center of their yoga mat and join their hands in a Namaste position while the feet are close together.
Take 5 to 7 deep breaths with eyes closed and tell them to mentally prepare their mind for a yoga session.
(An important thing to remember here is that they should have a positive experience of yoga, and not so rigid about keeping their front leg at a perfect 90-degree angle or hands are straight in a certain pose. They will eventually learn with practice.)
Downward dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana
How to: Ask the child to come in an inverted V-shaped mountain pose by going in a forward bend and placing the hands on the floor. Gradually make them walk back with the feet while the hands stay in the same position. Now try to press the heels on the floor.
Initially, if a child is unable to ground his heels, allow him to stay in the pose which he is most comfortable in. The shoulder will be away from the ears and the gaze is fixed on the navel center. Make them stay in this pose for 5 to 7 breaths.
Why to: Downward dog is a semi-inverted pose and increases the flow of blood to the brain. Opening the back, it strengthens the entire body and prepares the child for advanced poses in the future. Also the pose improves their posture, calms the mind and stretches the spinal column, which aids in opening the root chakra at an early age.
Cat pose or Marjariasana
How to: Ask the child to come in a table top position. Make sure his knees and hands are in a line, and his shoulders are in line with the hands. Ask him to inhale and look up, creating a concave bent in the back. The hips are out and the eyes are looking up and not in forward direction. And as he exhales, ask him to look down and create an arch in the back, in a convex shape. Stay here for 10 to 15 breaths and relax.
Why to: You can make it a fun exercise by telling the child that they have to imitate a cat. And just how a cat expands and contracts its back when it moves, they have to do the same. The movement of contraction and expansion, allows a deep relaxation in the back, shoulders and neck.
Frog pose or Ardha Bhekasana
How to: Make the child squat on the floor with entire body weight on the toes (or feet in case the child is able to) whereas the knees are wide open with maximum spacing between them. The hands are placed in between the legs, on the floor. If you want to test their balance ask them to place the hands in a Namaste position in front of their heart centre. Ask them to stay in the pose for 10 to 15 breaths.
Why to: Another fun pose, the kids can hold the frog pose longer as their hip joints are more flexible than the adults. Frog pose induces a sense of harmony and activates the sacral plexus chakra. Balancing the emotional center of the body, it is also helpful in inducing healthy sleep pattern.
Child’s pose or Balasana
How to: Ask the child to come in thunderbolt pose and be seated for some time. Then inhale deeply, raise his hands to gain length, and as he exhales, he should bend down keeping the back straight and the forehead resting on the floor. The palms of the hands are placed on the floor as well.
The hips are usually glued to the heels, but in case the child is unable to do that, ask him to open his knees wide open whereas the feet stays in the same position as earlier. The pose should be held for 10 to 15 breaths or more. Also, if the child is feeling anxious, making him do this pose immediately can help.
Why to: Child’s pose is an easy yet a very effective pose when it comes to relaxation and restoration. Just like downward dog this pose too increases the flow of the blood to the head and offers extended relaxation. The back and shoulders find ease and balance in this form.
Corpse pose or Savasana
How to: The last pose of the sequence, Savasana is the most difficult pose especially for children. As they find it difficult to stay in this position due to their active nature. Ask them to lie down on the floor, feet 2 to 3 feet apart, hands placed away from the body and the palms are facing upwards. Keep the eyes closed and ensure their entire body is in one line. Ask them to stay in the pose for 15 to 20 breaths or more.
Why to: Savasana is a restorative pose as it induces immediate relaxation. It increases the energy flow in the body, restores focus and balance and removes insomnia and stress. A magical posture, if a child gains control of the pose, he will never have the problem of insomnia in his entire life.
Children have the ability to understand, learn and repeat the pose in a much faster manner than an adult beginner. With daily practice, they will develop essential skills that will stay with them and promote a lifetime of health and wellness in mind, body and spirit. Parents must cultivate a sense of daily yoga practice in their child’s routine and if they can, practice with them as well.
Here’s some more yoga for children in the video below
Yoga for kids