Do you remember your favourite games as a child? I remember that I loved playing tennis, hula hooping in the school yard… anything generally that involved being active! To me growing up seemed far less complicated back then, simply being imaginative through play. I find this a great contrast when I compare the crazy fast-paced technological world my children are growing up in today.
It’s no surprise to me that this generation of children are becoming stressed, anxious and worried. With media, technology and advertising pressures being placed upon them to be the ‘perfect’ versions of themselves, while living and coping with the demands of school-life and the stresses of modern home life all to contend with. Finding balance and well-being can be challenging to say the least.
Speaking personally, I know from watching my own children how hard this can be. My two boys have the added pressure of living between two houses after their father and I went our separate ways. As difficult as it was at the time I made a personal commitment to support my children’s emotional well-being by adding what I call a sprinkling of magic. More on this later!
Children’s Well-Being Through Yoga
In January of last year, Prof. Ingunn Hagen and Dr. Usha Sidanda published a paper called Yoga for Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Well-Being which studied yoga from a mental health perspective. In it, they observe that modern society offers…
“…plenty of distractions and unwelcome attractions, especially linked to new media technologies. The dominant presence of multimedia devices and the time spent on them by children are clear indicators of the shift in lifestyles and priorities of our new generation. While these media technologies are valuable resources in children and young people’s lives for communication, learning and entertainment, they also result in constant competition for youngsters’ attention.”
In my opinion taking time away from the overstimulation and constant attachment to technology devices can only be beneficial for the healthy development of children’s emotional well-being so that they can be better equipped to deal with stressful situations, resolving conflict and managing behaviour.
This is where that sprinkling of magic comes in.
I truly believe yoga has a ‘magic’ quality to find emotional stability, as well as giving the gift of self-awareness to nurture self-esteem and confidence. Drawing from my experience with my own children and teaching yoga to others’ children, I’ve watched yoga give them the confidence to handle stress, mood swings and anxiety.
The great thing is the ‘magic’ qualities don’t end there!
Awareness and Wholeness
Learning to breathe with awareness can help release stored up emotions. This encourages the flow of the subtle life-fore energy called prāna, that can ultimately help with feelings of self-acceptance, being happier and having a more positive perspective. Now more than ever, recognising a child as whole human being (needing proper nurturing to develop a healthy mind and a healthy body) underpins their development, sense of self, and connectedness.
Postures and Fun
Yoga postures involve balancing, twisting, forward bends, back bends and inversions which all help to keep bones healthy, develop strong muscles, support joint flexibility, assist functional movement and promote body awareness.
Engaging children in story telling from the animal kingdom for example where they can explore postures creatively, learn different qualities of how an animal moves and stretches all through imagery and play with the emphasis being on fun sparks children’s imagination and creativity, without judgement. But don’t take my word for it here’s what some of my former school children had to say about their yoga sessions…
“We focussed on the word FUN!” -Nicholas, aged 10
“I really loved the sneaky trees game.” -Kirsty, aged 10
“I really enjoyed yoga it’s lots of fun, I feel relaxed in ladybird relaxation. I would recommend it anyone who is feeling stressed.” -Rhys, aged 10
“My favourite posture is ‘ready to listen and learn posture’ because it makes me feel good.” -Jess, aged 10
“I thought yoga was boring but it’s AWESOME!” -David, aged 10
As you can see these testimonials speak for themselves!
Stillness and Discipline
Settling a busy mind in a safe nurturing, calming and relaxing environment within a typical yoga session helps children reconnect with their intuition. Trusting and taking time to listen to their gut instinct helps to reintegrate their senses, and brings their awareness back to the body. This allows them to be less dependant on being in their thinking minds, which are most active when engaged in activities like playing on the computer.
Life is difficult enough for children as it is. Yoga is a constant reminder that a committed practice will uncover something magical inside only to be found through the experience of yoga.
Gratitude and Kindness
Last, but definitely not least, yoga encourages the gift of gratitude and kindness. This is done by using positive language to instil confidence and joy in the little practitioners. It also grants an understanding of how words, actions and experiences impact others and themselves.
The Magic Continues
These are just some of the magical benefits of how yoga empowers children make sense of the world they live in, develop healthy relationships with others and most importantly the relationship with themselves. Over the next several articles, I will be exploring in detail how yoga can benefit children at all stages of their development, so do check back in.
In the meantime, anyone for tennis or hula hooping?! As my children are growing up, it’s rewarding to see how this ‘sprinkling of magic’ yoga philosophy is supporting their emotional well-being – even if they don’t recognise it right now! When they look back on their childhood, I hope they remember the balance between their technology and computer games, and sharing family time to play some of their favourite sports including tennis, rugby and football.
How have your children discovered the magic of yoga? I welcome your comments below on how you take time out to play to find some magic of your own!