There is a famous belief in the religion of Hinduism that young children are a reflection of god with each one being born with an extremely pure heart. This fact is often mirrored in their behavior and natural abilities which are way advanced than adults who often need to train intensively to gain the level of flexibility naturally present in babies. It is true that babies are born as little yogis and yoginis. Their spines are nice and erect, their limbs are mobile and their heads balance naturally without any strain on their necks or shoulders. At every stage in development, babies naturally curl and rest into a variety of asanas that would make any yoga student green with envy. It is for this very natural reason that in a perfect world yoga and young kids would be synonymous with one another.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) we don’t live in a perfect world and hence it is important to indicate how beneficial it can be for yoga and young kids to be as close to each other as possible. In this special feature New York-based celebrity yoga instructor Kristin Mcgee who is also one of the leading names in pioneering yoga for young kids with her Bendigirl Yoga program, talks about the importance of starting your yoga journey from an early age.
As children, we are naturally more flexible, daring, unselfconscious, pliable and have natural strength to support our own body. As adults, we let gravity take over, we become stiff, self-conscious, tense and try and grip our way through muscular activities instead of finding and relying on our own natural internal strength. I love inspiring children because habits learned early on in life are easier to maintain. Learning a foreign language as a child is so much easier than as an adult. Yoga is much the same way: Start young and you’ll keep the benefits of yoga throughout your life. Let’s take a look at three reasons why yoga and young kids make an excellent combination.
Learning to Breathe
The word yoga means to unite or to join, and in yoga, we unite our minds and our bodies via our best friend, breath. Children naturally take deep, full, belly breaths and yoga enables a child to become aware of their wonderful breath at a young age. This further also allows them to see how they can use breath to calm down, develop patience, get more focused and push to a new level in a posture or exercise. In fact, anxiety in most children can be quelled through the soothing Ujayii breath that we use in yoga. It’s also great to show children just how incredible their breath is; to help a child become more mindful of each living breathing moment makes them more present and appreciative of themselves and others.
Yoga teaches us patience. In yoga practice, we often hold postures for quite some time. When we have to hold a pose or a stretch and sit with the discomfort we are feeling, it helps us deal better with uncomfortable situations in life and learn to calm down and relax and be more patient with ourselves and others. In this quick-paced, immediate-gratification and technology-overloaded world, it is especially important for children to learn that anything worth doing requires time, dedication and patience.
Stronger Bodies, Stronger Minds
Yoga builds strength, helps with balance and increases flexibility, all of which children can benefit from greatly. The kind of strength we develop in yoga relies on our own using our own body to support our weight. It is empowering for children to come into challenging arm balances and standing poses not only to build leg strength but also to promote self-confidence. Tree pose, Eagle pose, Dancing Shiva, to name a few, are all wonderful balancing postures that help children build bone density, gain core strength and develop more focus and concentration.
And of course, let’s not forget flexibility! Every posture we do in yoga requires flexible hips, shoulders, hamstring, backs, wrists, and feet even. Through yoga, children can learn how to stretch safely, open up and stay flexible. Better flexibility and core strength lead to better posture and deeper, fuller breathing as well.
In addition to promoting good physical habits from a young age, yoga is also a great support system for children who are in athletics as it aids in better coordination, ease of movement and strength. It’s also great for children who haven’t found a sport they love because it gives them a chance to exercise and discover something they can do on their own or with friends.
In developed markets like the United States, there are now special yoga training centers which encourage new mothers to practice the art with their babies. In fact, the best way that schools and educational institutions can promote good health and impart true knowledge to our kids is by making yoga a mandatory subject starting from kindergarten right until graduation.