Yoga was originally created by monks thousands of years ago, so they could develop muscle strength and flexibility to enable them to sit for long periods of time when they meditated. Hence the name ‘asana’ which means seat. Asana is another term for ‘pose’ or ‘posture’.
Our kids sit a lot. They don’t seem to play outside like the kids of a generation ago did. Therefore, the opportunity to develop physically is limited. Add up the sitting they do at home and in school and you have potential for not just being overweight but for tight, weak muscles too.
Why is this bad? There is enough evidence to suggest why being overweight isn’t healthy so lets just focus on the other point.
If our muscles aren’t given the opportunity to stretch, strengthen and develop flexibility, the risk of injury is higher, especially if your child participates in contact sports, such as basketball, netball or football. Even the top athletes are incorporating yoga into their fitness regime. Not just for mind power but for developing the flexibility and strength they need to compliment their other physical training.
Yoga builds strength. Yoga uses all areas of our body, working on the core, the limbs, the back, the neck and head. Evidence suggests that using your own body as resistance for developing strength (opposed to using weights) allows the body to only go as far as it can go comfortably, without risking injury. The only prop you need for yoga is your body. So yoga can be a very convenient form of exercise.
Yoga draws attention to all of our body. Every little bone, muscle, ligament and tendon. Teaching children to understand our physical body teaches them to be responsible for their physical wellness. It helps them to understand when their body is not functioning well and how to use techniques to better their bodies for optimum function. They know that it if they stretch their hamstrings, then this will help with their aching back or by using a tennis ball we can stretch all the fascia that surrounds our muscles to release muscle soreness. Children who learn these skills are less likely to suffer the consequence of injury and illness as they age.
Think about the people you know who can’t put on their socks while standing up. I bet they have to sit on their bed and awkwardly get that foot into the sock with a lot of tugging and grunting! How old are they? 80? 70? What about 40 or even 30?
Teaching yoga in schools benefits not only the physical fitness of children but also empowers teachers to understand the consequences of sitting for long periods and how this can affect learning. Sitting should be varied and correct sitting techniques should be taught – crossed legged, frog, butterfly, sitting in a chair correctly and implementing chair exercises for when children become restless or ache.
Teachers can be taught strategies to assist children for optimal learning.
Yoga can be used for warm ups for PE classes, before coming into class to release restlessness, when the class becomes disruptive, compliment learning about the body, used when recess is cancelled due to extreme weather, assist children with learning difficulties and the list can go on.
Yoga in schools can be used as a positive resource to get children moving to improve their overall ability to perform in the classroom. You only have to Google ‘Benefits of Yoga in the Classroom’ to see that evidence is mounting for support of implementing a yoga program.
Yoga for children uses lots of fun games, concepts and creative ideas that incorporate yoga asana to help develop this overall awareness of how our bodies move and more importantly how good we feel after stretching and moving.
Head over to my Instagram account @nic.r for lots of creative yoga pictures with children.