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Yoga offers a gamut of ‘asanas’ or poses for addressing different aspects of wellbeing. From poses that simply calm us down to poses that therapeutically cure many underlying physical conditions, the science of yoga is very versatile. The purpose of designing a yoga program for kids becomes very important in choosing the right kind of poses for them. Yoga programs for kids are mainly intended to make them learn to accept their bodies, be more disciplined in their actions and be calmer to focus and concentrate in a better way. When practised over a period of time, it makes them physically and mentally strong and improves their overall health and wellness.
What is Yoga & Why is it Important
Yoga is the ancient science of combining and harnessing the physical, mental and spiritual energies of the body to unfold its full potential. It has gained significant popularity in the recent times as an effective means of combating the pressures of today’s world. Many adults have integrated the practice of yoga asana in their regular schedule and have greatly benefited from it.
It is a very economical tool to stay fit and focused in life. A few hours of daily practice ensures great improvement in the activeness, immunity and the general wellness of a person. With many new forms of exercise mushrooming every single day, this ancient practice of yoga is slowly and steadily growing due to its holistic healing nature.
Kids in today’s day and age are over stimulated with the availability of so many distractions in the form of gadgets and toys. This has a profound effect on their attention span and their concentration level. Low immunity due to unhealthy eating habits and pollution is another major cause of concern for parents today. Halting the rapidly changing world is impossible. The only solution to this problem lies in dealing with it by empowering the kids.
Yoga is a blessing to mankind and the importance of yoga for kids in solving these problems cannot be reiterated more. Kids are generally very quick at learning and therefore, incorporating yogic practices in their routine early on in life can be a great way to ensure a healthy lifestyle for them.
Benefits of Yoga for Kids
There are innumerable benefits that yoga has for kids when practised regularly. Here are a few of them:
- It can be an effective calming technique for kids. A simple exercise of observing their breathing pattern can improve their focus, attention and calmness.
- It can help them build a positive self-image about their body and give them a control of their flexibility and agility.
- Asanas like the suryanamaskar improve their ability to balance their body which indirectly acts as a meditative posture for them.
- Holding the focus to stay in a certain posture is especially good for kids as they take their baby steps towards achieving self-control.
- Channelised breathing patterns, prescribed in the various pranayamas, boost the immunity and energise the body. This protects them from upper respiratory problems that have become a common problem among children today.
- Some asanas improve the core strength immensely, correcting their postural problems.
- Some yoga postures are specifically designed for children with autism spectrum disorders to meet their special therapeutic needs.
In today’s competitive world, even school-going children are subjected to tremendous stress. The pressure to achieve and excel in academics and extracurricular activities is high, due to which many kids suffer from anxiety related issues. Yoga asanas, not only help them relax but also give them the time and patience to slow down and get a perspective on things around them. Learning a new skill is easier in childhood and the neuronal connections made at a younger age tend to leave a lasting imprint in their brains.
8 Effective Yoga Poses for Children
There are a few yoga asanas that are scientifically proven to help children improve their overall physical and mental awareness. Here are a few asanas that are great for kids.
1. Adho Mukhasvanasana – The Dog Pose
This pose mimics the posture of a dog stretching itself. It involves balancing the weight on the legs and the hand in an inverted ‘U’ position. In this posture, the kid is encouraged to tuck in the toes facing inwards, raise the hips as much as possible and push the chest well inside. The head that is hanging down is stretched inwards.
This asana is particularly helpful to children in improving blood circulation to the extremities of the body. It also serves as a good stretching exercise for improving flexibility to do other complicated yogic poses. The ability to balance the core of the body is also improved by regular practice.
2. Vrikshasana – The Tree Pose
This yoga posture, as the name suggests resembles a tree. In this posture, the child is made to stand in one leg and then fold the knee of the other leg to place it over the thigh of the leg used to balance the weight of the body. The arms are stretched up with the hands folded in the ‘namaskar’ position. The child balances the weight on one leg for a few minutes and then repeats the same with the other leg.
This asana comes only with practice and may take a few tries to perfect. It is usually suggested to improve concentration as only focusing can help in balancing the weight of the body in one leg. This is one exercise that kids are bound to enjoy and have fun doing.
3. Virabhadrasana I – Warrior Pose I
The warrior pose of yogasana increases body balance and core strength for the kids. It is particularly useful to kids in creating a positive image about their own body, thereby increasing their self-confidence. It is helpful in alleviating any pain in the chest, ankle, knee and arms.
In this posture, the child is first made to stand with the legs wide apart and arms spread out at shoulder length. Then, by twisting the right foot to face outwards, the right knee is gently bent in the forward direction. It is ensured that the left knee is straight and the position is sustained for about a minute with normal breathing.
4. Tadasana – The Mountain Pose
This is a very simple yoga posture that can be a good starting point for advanced asanas. In this posture, the child is first made to stand in an erect position with both the legs close to each other. The hands are then raised above the head to join in the namaskar gesture. The asana is a true measure of the stamina and balancing ability of the child.
This asana ensures an erect posture for the kids. Many a time in classrooms as well as during study times, children tend to bend over and put a lot of strain on the spine. Incorrect posture causes pain and other discomforts to the children at later stages of life. This yogasana is very helpful in correcting such postural issues.
5. Uttanasana – The Rag Doll Pose
This asana is a part of the suryanamaskar exercise and hence, is a good precursor to the more complicated version for kids. In this asana, the kid first raises the hand above the head and then bends over as straight as possible to touch the feet. Care must be taken to not bend the knees while doing this. If the child is not able to touch the feet fully, he or she is encouraged to catch the portion of the leg which is reachable.
This exercise is very beneficial in stretching the hamstring. The hamstring is a very important muscle in the leg that needs to be flexible for good agility. By practising this asana, the muscles stretch considerably making it less prone to injury.
6. Baddha Konasana – The Butterfly Pose
The name of this asana can be very exciting for kids as it mimics the action of a butterfly. To practice this asana, the child is made to sit on a flat surface with legs stretched in front. Then the knees are bent inward, parallel to the floor to make the soles of the feet touch each other. The soles are then held tightly with the hands and the knees are flapped up and down like the wings of a butterfly.
This asana is very helpful in strengthening and flexing the inner thigh muscles. It shapes the thigh muscles in the long run and ensures a very erect posture.
7. Setu Bandhasana – The Bridge Pose
The pose resembles an inverted U, where the upper body is bent like a bridge.To do this asana, the child is first made to lie on their back on a flat surface. Then, the knees are folded in an inverted V shape and the hands are folded in the reverse direction and placed near the head. Then the hips are gently lifted above the ground as high as possible.
This asana is quite challenging and can be perfected with practice. With every try, the flexibility is improved significantly. This asana causes the reverse flow of blood to the torso and the head and re-oxygenates these regions. It is very helpful for kids to improve their stamina, immunity and streamline their blood flow.
8. Pranayama – Breathing Exercises
Pranayama is a very key aspect of yogasana and has very significant benefits to the body. As the word suggests, these exercises which modulate the breathing pattern have calming effects on the body and improve the self-awareness levels. Many a time, breathing patterns change during the course of life and the right kind of energising breathing techniques are lost. Practising these breathing techniques equips the kids to face the world with better calmness, clarity and focus. There are many breathing techniques in pranayama and the basic ones can be taught to kids to be practised on a regular basis. This also keeps upper respiratory infections away, by reducing the allergic reactions of the body.
Yoga exercises for kids have to be taught in a very creative and fun way to the children. Unlike adults, children pick up when taught with a lot of imaginative pretend play incorporated in it. A simple posture of bending over and touching their legs can be taught in a fun way by asking them to stretch their hands to reach to the stars and then catch them to smear it on their legs. This not only helps them learn it quickly but also keeps them motivated to pursue it every single day until it becomes part of their routine.
Another interesting thing about teaching yoga exercises for kids is that they enjoy learning it in a group. It can be a great way to encourage them to play and learn as a team. As a weekend fun activity either with their friends or with other yoga practising adults of the family, the stretching and bending can warm them up for a week full of hard work.
Family yoga programs are on the rise today, owing to the increased awareness about the benefits of yoga, among people. The new generation that is going to make the future of the world needs to be protected against all the unwanted consequences of technology. Going back to the roots to circumvent this problem is the only solution to this and there is no better way than yoga.