By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Yogic exercise is a very popular activity in many communities, as people increasingly come to recognize the myriad benefits it has to offer our bodies, minds, and lives. Yoga teacher training programs that specialize in training instructors for teaching children are also becoming quite prevalent, but what sort of classes should kids participate in?
Happily, most teachers of children’s Yoga classes know a good deal about what makes kids tick and have designed their classes accordingly. Who can help but be delighted by the idea that we name asanas after animals? Most children love learning the animal poses and will eagerly supply all the proper sound effects, too. Yoga games, stories, and songs are also really effective ways to teach children asanas and breathing. The key to teaching Yoga to kids is to keep it fun and stress-free. Children usually come to class, without the self-consciousness and ego, which many adults have. These feelings are frequently a great hindrance to adults in their practice; but because children are generally more open and accepting, both of the class and of their own abilities, they flourish.
The benefits of Yogic exercise for children are many. Children must sit still and pay attention for long periods at increasingly younger ages, and this can cause them great stress; but Yogic exercise gives them a method for releasing pent-up energy in a productive way. Yoga can help kids maintain their natural flexibility, as the rest of the world grows rigid, and it can help them keep viewing their bodies as a positive and powerful force in the universe.
About Vinyasa for Children
Vinyasa is a very enjoyable and effective form of Yogic exercise for many adults, but is it a good fit for most children? As many of you already know, Vinyasa is a sequence of asanas, connected to breath in a flow. Vinyasa flow might be a leisurely series or a quick-paced routine, depending on the style, studio, and Yoga instructor; and it might also be practiced in a heated studio. Most classes are an intense and physically challenging experience.
This makes Vinyasa classes perfect for adults looking for a challenge. However, young children might not usually respond well to this type of class – a child’s imaginative spirits and love of variety point towards something less serious and more fun.
Vinyasa Yoga is not an ideal choice for young a child, but a youth program, designed just for kids, is an excellent way to introduce Yogic life skills to a new generation of practitioners.
While the case has been made that Vinyasa style classes may not be ideal for young children, teaching teenagers in athletic leagues is a different story. As a form of cross training for teenage athletes, many Yoga teachers have seen rapid changes for the best. Teenage athletes, who participate in flowing style Yoga classes, gain strength, balance, flexibility, stamina, self-confidence, and a deeper knowledge of one’s self. These valuable life skills serve teenagers well, at a time when peer pressure is at its height.
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