We all know that exercise helps children stay healthy. In fact, pediatricians recommend 60 minutes of physical activity each day for growing kids. While my kids are active in sports, there are days that we just cannot get outside due to inclement weather or harried schedules.
That’s why I was so excited yesterday when we had a local instructor (and mom) come to lead my Cub Scout den of 13 boys (2nd graders) in a session of yoga for kids. The breathing and stretching exercises the children learned will not only improve strength and flexibility, but can actually be a tool for self-soothing.
That’s right – physical and mental benefits for kids as young as 3!
When it comes to yoga for kids, the most important thing to keep in mind is that it should be fun. Our yoga instructor had the scouts spread out in a big circle and explained how yoga practice helps you focus in on yourself. Its about going within, paying attention to breathing, and not interacting with – or being concerned about – the people next to you.
In other words, there is no competition. Yoga is simply beneficial to you, as you wish to use it on that day and in that moment.
The scouts learned a number of kids yoga poses including tree pose, bear, ninja, cowboy, rabbit, rock and child’s pose, while the instructor told a story of a Bear, Ninja and Cowboy who were arguing which one of them was the best. The story took the children through a number of poses, and also kept their rapt attention!
Personally, one of my favorite parts of the kids’ yoga session was when the instructor had the children sit down, cross legs and place their hands on their knees, palms up. She showed them a meditative practice in which you touch thumb to first finger, then to the second finder, and one-by-one through to the fifth finger. As you touch each finger, say om, nom, mom, pom. Sing the chant first, then whisper it, and then think it silently to yourself. Repeat twice.
The yoga instructor told our group that the meditation chant is especially helpful in stressful situations and can help reduce high emotions. For example, your mom says that you cannot watch television before bed. While you are initially very angry and upset, going through the yoga meditation can help recenter your emotions and balance.
Why not consider yoga for kids as a part of your healthy lifestyle? Considering that the word “yoga” comes from a root word in Sanskrit that means “union,” and refers to the union of body, mind, and soul, it seems that connecting the physical with the emotional and spiritual can help guide children as they grow in this world, while learning to appreciate the gifts of their own body in a quiet, non-competitive setting.
As for our normally rambunctious cub scouts, we ended our yoga session in Shavasana (corpse pose) lying on their backs. The group of 8-year old boys closed their eyes and focused on breathing in and out. Our yoga instructor had the boys sit up, place palms together and say “Namaste,” explaining the meaning of the term which expresses respect. Respect for the body, mind and soul, respect for the practice of yoga, and respect for neighbors and others in the room.
In just 1/2 hour, I’ve never witnessed such a transformation in these kids! Now, my son and several others would like to find yoga for kids classes to attend. I’m all for that!