“Feel good, be good, and do good.” – Yogi Bhajan, Guru of Kundalini Yoga
The summer holidays are nearly here, which can be an exciting time for many children. However, in the run to the summer it’s a busy time for schools across the UK. There’s the sudden pressure of Phonic Screening tests, SATs, class transition activities, parent-teacher meetings, end of term events and much more. This can be overwhelming for any child to process, resulting in stress, anxiety and exhaustion.
To enhance a bit of peace and calm in my busy classroom, I have daily relaxation sessions. The children are given the time and space to lie down in a dimly lit environment on soft cushions under blankets, to help them switch off from the busyness of their minds and focus on their breathing. In the background they listen to calming relaxation music and are reminded to close their eyes, tap into how different parts of their body feels, then calmly let go. Sometimes I ask the kids to think of their favourite colour and imagine breathing in this colour to different parts of their bodies whilst gradually surrendering to a sense of peace.
I love using Mindfulness with children because it’s a wonderful way to help kids feel centred, learn to breathe fully and encourages them to feel present within each moment. With regular practice, mindfulness can have a positive impact on a child’s mental clarity and emotional wellbeing.
On the other hand, Yoga for kids can be viewed as a combination of mindfulness and awareness of the whole body. If practiced regularly in a fun and interactive manner, yoga can promote a healthy way of living, compassion, self awareness, a peaceful mindset and help children eventually grow into self-assured and empowered adults.
“Yoga is a way to freedom. By its constant practice, we can free ourselves from fear, anguish and loneliness.” – Indra Devi
So what exactly is yoga? Yoga is more than just stretching into different poses. Yoga is an ancient Indian art created over 5,000 years ago by master yogis who initially focused on meditating to reach spiritual enlightenment, then added breathing, stretching and deeply relaxing. The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to yoke” or join together. It is a union or joining together of the mind, body and spirit. Traditional yogis see the practice as a way of living a peaceful life beyond the yoga mat. Yogis are encouraged to listen to their hearts and find their true paths in life.
Within a typical yoga class, children do breathing (pranayama), physical poses (asana), meditation, relaxation and fun creative activities to inspire, enrich and uplift them. In my classroom, I like to practice simple yoga and mindful movements during brain breaks. We also watch some lovely yoga videos for kids like ‘Every Little Cell’ from Kidding Around Yoga, which combines dancing and fun with yoga (chair, ragdoll and lion). And here’s a wonderful video below of Jamie from Cosmic Kids storytelling through yoga. Click refresh on your keyboard if Jamie’s video doesn’t appear straight away.
“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.” – Geeta Iyengar
If you have ever attended an adult class, you’ll notice how yoga is very different for children. However, the benefits for adults and kids alike still remain endless. According to Giselle Shardlow, award-winning author of Kids Yoga Stories the benefits of yoga for children are:
- increases strength and flexibility
- helps them relax, unwind, and calm down to reduce stress and anxiety
- helps them sleep better
- promotes interaction between adult and child, and between multiple children
- improves their fine and gross motor skills, as well as their coordination
- develops self-confidence, self-expression and body awareness
- promotes a calm, healthy, active lifestyle
A study by Harvard Medical School found that over time, yoga can change the way our genes express themselves in order to achieve optimal health. So simply put, regardless of a person’s age, and with consistent practice, yoga is scientifically proven to be good for our mental health, emotional wellbeing and physical mobility.
“Yoga is a dance between control and surrender.” – Joel Kramer
With its many benefits, this ancient practice encourages little yogis to learn to live mindfully and be kind to themselves and others. That said, on a daily basis, children are affected by the words, actions and behaviour of their parents, teachers and any other grownups in their lives. So I encourage you to be an inspiring role model for children by showing compassion for yourself and others, taking part in positive activities that enrich and inspire you and proactively look after your own health and wellbeing. You never know, you may just find yourself on a yoga mat next to your own child or leading a kid’s yoga class beaming with pride.
Lastly, here’s a short clip recorded initially from the perspective of children with their whole lives ahead of them, then the elderly reflect on how fast time flies. Again, click refresh, if you can’t see the video straight away. It’s reminder for us all that life is short, so live every single day with a sense of gratitude. Practice yoga or similar activities that bring your mind, body and spirit into a peaceful union.
Miss H ♥
Cover photo credit: Kidding Around Yoga