by Charlie Nash
We potentially think of yoga as something for adults, yet yoga has so much to offer everyone beyond the adult learners. It’s no wonder then that a growing number of children and families are opting to participate in yoga classes tailored for children. With many yoga teachers now offering yoga for both children and their families, there’s plenty of opportunity around Sussex to experience this, whether it might be in your local community hall, yoga studio, festival, after-school club or a 1:1 session in the comfort of your own home.
Yoga was developed up to 5,000 years ago in India as a comprehensive system for well-being on all levels; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. In the West we often focus on the physical aspect of yoga. The other elements, which go hand-in-hand with the physical, are starting to be recognised and shared with students both young and old alike.
These benefits are being recognised by educational authorities across the country with more primary and secondary schools acknowledging the benefits yoga has on their students’ mental and physical health, particularly around SATS and other public exams.
In an age where technology has taken over our lives, the benefits of yoga couldn’t be in greater need. Whether we like it or not, children and adults are bombarded with information overload from television, the Internet and smartphones. It’s said that in the course of a day, the average person in a western city is exposed to as much data as someone in the 15th century would encounter in their entire lifetime.
Yoga allows children to take time out from all of the above. With continued practice there’s a wealth of benefits that can enrich their entire lives all the way through to adulthood. Yoga is not only fun, it encourages children to think freely and let their imaginations go wild, as they explore the many asanas (postures) that link to nature and animals. Children thoroughly enjoy the connections with their bodies, with movement helping to promote self-awareness of their limbs, joints and muscles from a young age. Yoga subtly teaches us about the interconnectedness of our bodies. From toes and jaws, to heart and lungs. This allows us to keep every part of our body alive and supple, no matter how small.
With regular practice children can find deeper concentration, which may have positive effects in both school and family life. This is achieved through the opportunity and encouragement to clear the mind and to focus single-handedly on each asana at a time. Beyond the physical, yoga teaches children to quiet the mind through different relaxation and breathing techniques. This can help with anxiety and stress, being a skill the children can practise anytime and anywhere.
Children learn to be non-competitive and non-judgemental of themselves and others. They learn to share and take turns with other children in the class, promoting kindness and gratitude from a young age. They learn, through yoga, that they are OK just the way they are and don’t need to compare themselves to others. This allows them to become more accepting and understanding of not only themselves, but also everybody else around them.
The Dalai Lama said “If every eight year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation”. With a rapidly expanding and growing world, this quote could not be more relevant. Allowing children to be grounded and centred in their thoughts is one of the greatest gifts we can give. Making sure their true nature is made up of compassion, love, and wisdom, which can then be shared with the world.
YogaFrogs – bringing weekly yoga, mindfulness, meditation and creativity to children, teens and families across East and West Sussex,