The word yoga means ‘to unite’, what are we aiming to ‘unite’? The practice of yoga unites the mind with the body through the breath. After a yoga session, one is typically left feeling calm and balanced in mind and body.
Attention to the breath is everything.
I have practised yoga for 17 years and whilst I have always appreciated the mental and physical benefits it brings, in the last few years, I have become more interested in an interior life, in mindfulness, meditation and the philosophy of yoga. A natural part of ageing I think!
I believe in the Ahimsa code of conduct – to not wish anyone harm in thought or deed, that extends to all living things…including oneself.
If we can be kind to ourselves, we can then extend kindness to others.
I love working with children, love their imaginations and outside the box thinking. In classrooms today, though, there isn’t much time to explore, be silly or deviate from the curriculum but it’s okay in yoga!
It seems to me that the days of Piaget were happier for both pupils and teachers and whilst the more able pupils may be making accelerated progress now, it is at the expense of those children that just aren’t ready or may need to learn differently.
It made sense to me to unite my two passions and bring yoga to children in school. Through yoga, I hope to give children some tools which will help them in their daily lives. Children can learn to manage and regulate their emotions through breath awareness and taking quiet time to get in touch with their feelings.
Learning and acknowledging the limitations and abilities of your body is very empowering in yoga. Children hold a lot of emotional tension in their bodies – stiff shoulders and bunched fists. Practising yoga can really help with the release of tension and emotion. The relaxation that comes after yoga practice is the final stage in letting go of any negative thoughts and indeed thought patterns, leaving you feeling refreshed and cleansed. A healthy, balanced body leads to a healthy, balanced mind.
As well as stress, the other area of concern for me is the high number of children with processing issues in schools – dyspraxia, dyslexia, Sensory Processing (SPD) and ADHD. Sometimes all of these combined! Schools are finding that more and more children are arriving at school with co-ordination and processing issues.
I am passionate about helping such children through yoga, as I know first hand what a painful and exhausting experience school is for them. Yoga can help with their co-ordination by helping them to practise crossing the midline, it can also help with proprioception i.e. knowing where their body is in space. By pushing against their body in postures, it will give them the input they need to calm their senses and especially for the hyper-mobile (over-flexible joints), help them to find their edge. Such children can be highly sensitive and very anxious. Yoga offers lots of calming techniques. Yoga can be very creative and visual and such children often enjoy visualisation and look for outlets for their amazing imaginations and wells of creativity.
To be creative is the purest form of communication, it comes from the subconscious but we have to be relaxed for it to happen.
Yoga can give children the opportunity to relax which will enhance their creativity, encourage expression and make them comfortable with their bodies. Through exploring our ‘edge’ in yoga – how far we can go in a posture – we seek to push ourselves a little more every time. It can feel frightening to do this, to try something new, to extend oneself. However, I think the ability to do this really helps with fostering independence in children and it can help them understand what a positive learning style should look like.
Namely, one in which one is only concerned with one’s own progress and endeavour and not distracted by another. Where one is always striving, leading to inner satisfaction in achievement, not some external reward. This extends to all children and yoga is a great leveller.
Stress is an issue for very academic children too. These children can lack resilience, they are used to being the ‘bright’ ones and when they don’t get a concept or struggle with something, they can crumble because they don’t have the tools to recover. Yoga can help with providing those tools and all children, once taught them, will have them for life.
Try some yoga with your children today!!
*Now teaching at The Yoga Rooms, Chorlton My Class
Some yoga games:
Use a hula hoop, hold hands in a circle, everyone has to get through the hoop without breaking the circle!
marbles: put marbles inside a hoop on the floor (to contain them). Children pick them up with their toes.
Humming Bee: one child leaves the room, another hides a bee toy, when the child comes back in, everyone hums/buzzes to indicate when the child is getting close!
Books to use in yoga:
Beautiful OOps, Barney Saltzberg: resilience and positive outcomes from mistakes.
I want my Hat Back, Jon Klassen: Funny with links to some good animal postures.
Listening Walk, Paul Showers: for listening to sounds ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ – good for sound awareness and phonics.
Harold and the purple crayon, Crockett Johnson: good for gross motor control.
Shh We have a plan, Chris Haughton: /sh/ digraph and yoga for literacy!
Books about yoga/mindfulness:
Yoga Education For Children, Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Teaching Meditation to Children, David Fontana & Ingrid Slack
Once Upon a Pose, Donna Freeman