Sarah Thomas, Junior School teacher at Alleyn’s, and qualified Hatha yoga practitioner, on the benefits of Hatha Yoga for children and adolescents.
As the inimitable ‘Mr Magorium’ in the film bearing the same name, Dustin Hoffmann says: “Your life is an occasion – rise to it!” In other words, live life well and as fully as possible. In order to ‘rise to the occasion’ however we need to be physically, mentally and emotionally well so we have the resilience to deal with all that life throws at us.
It is well-documented that our busy lives leave us stressed and children too are party to this. Busy home lives, school lives, homework deadlines, and revising for exams all contribute. Add the intrusion of social media, peer pressure and messages from society as a whole into the mix, and children can be bombarded from all sides at a vulnerable stage in their lives.
How Can Yoga Help?
As a ‘mindful’ practice, Yoga belongs in the ‘wellbeing toolkit’, providing practical exercises to strengthen the body, calm the mind and soothe the emotions. It is a mood booster, a stress alleviator, and an uplifting ‘feel-good’ endorphin releaser!
Hatha Yoga is made up of three main elements – postures, breathing exercises and relaxation. Children pick up the postures and different techniques with ease, with a growing awareness that these will have a positive effect on their minds and bodies and restore a sense of wellbeing.
- Try yoga yourself – your child will learn the movements of yoga from watching and imitating you
- Start early with parent and child classes
- For toddlers and up get a child-sized yoga mat and allow them to follow your practice whenever and however they please
- Try some of the great, free children’s yoga videos that are available online
- Sign them up for one of the many children’s yoga classes available
- Introduce them to simple breathing exercises
- Invest in fun yoga games like The Kids Yoga Deck to teach them different poses
- Most important, keep it fun and light-hearted – yoga is about relaxing after all!
Yoga classes close with a relaxation session. Learning to relax fully and completely does not come naturally to everyone, but it is a vital process to help lower stress, turn off the ‘fight/flight’ response and switch from the ‘alarm brain’ to the ‘thinking brain’.
Children are taught to practise simple breath awareness in yoga classes. Focusing the attention on the breath slows the traffic of the mind and induces a sense of peacefulness.
Once children have these yoga ‘tools’ at their fingertips it becomes second nature, and they can practise on their own, at a time that suits them.
Not only is yoga simple, free and accessible to all, it leaves both children and adults feeling joyful, energised and relaxed, and, to paraphrase the words of Mr Magorium himself, better able to rise to the occasion that is life!