Yoga is believed to have originated right at the dawn of human civilization. The word means ‘to join' or 'unite’ in Sanskrit. Sanskrit is an ancient Indian language, dating back 3500 years ago and believed to be the origin of many Indian languages.
Yoga is a set of spiritual, physical and mental practices that originated in ancient India. Although popular among adults, in children yoga is claimed to be effective in improving focus, building physical strength, stretching growing muscles for flexibility and providing relief from stress. Many schools have the practice of yoga as an essential part of their curriculum.
In the US in 2013, the California school district of The Encinitas gained the San Diego Supreme Court’s approval to integrate children's yoga as a part of their physical education program.
What age can I let my child start children yoga
There is no age restriction as to when children can start yoga. Babies as young as six weeks onwards can start. This is a good way for mums to start bonding with their baby in a fun way.
Yoga helps build body awareness which in turn leads to better motor skills. They gain better balance leading to early crawling and walking skills.
In toddlers, the poses are designed to be more fun and engaging to suit their quick growing minds and bodies. In teens, they aim to help them develop both mentally and physically and better equip them for a very complex period in their lives what with all the turmoil of being a teen.
Benefits of children yoga
As a parent, we all know that our children are growing up in a different world today. One, very different from the one we grew up in. Schools can only do so much, and that leaves the onus on parents. Yoga is a low-cost but very effective tool that can help us help our kids.
Yoga builds better concentration and self-awareness skills through the practice of controlled breathing and meditation. It acts as a way of relieving stress through muscle movement and learning to use their body in a positive way. Kids get the opportunity to be a part of a group that is not competitive in an unhealthy way.
Yoga builds self-confidence and positivity to help achieve a positive outlook. It gives them an outlet to get away from electronic gadgets; one of the biggest challenges in a world plagued by social media.
Poses and sequence for children yoga
The following are the 20 best and fun yoga poses for kids
1.Child’s Pose (Balasana):
This pose works wonders to release stress. One of its other major benefits is that it helps the body rest and relax between different yoga poses.
Kneel on the floor and sit on your heels, keeping the big toes together and the knees just as far apart as the hips. Exhaling slowly, bend forwards till your chest rests on your thighs. And your forehead touches the ground. Bring your arms towards and your sides and let your shoulders fall and relax.
Take several long deep breaths and feel the body relax.
2. Extended Child’s Pose:
This is the same as the child’s pose.
Here, the knees are a bit further apart than the hips thus allowing the chest to sink in deeper between the knees. Another difference is that the arms are extended forward above the head. This allows for a better and deeper stretch.
3. Bow Pose(Dhanurasana):
This pose works wonders to strengthen the back and improve posture.
Lie flat on your tummy, with your hands along your torso and palms facing up. Exhaling slowly bring the heels as close to the buttocks as you can. Then reach back and grasp around your ankles but be sure your knee width is never greater than the hip width. Pretending to be a bow, exhale and reach up and hold the pose for 20 seconds. Come back to the child’s pose. Relax and rest your spine. Repeat.
4. Lion pose (Simhasana):
The Lion pose is a lot of fun for kids. It relives stress, fatigue and is a great outlet when are kids frustrated and need to vent.
For this pose, kneel down and sit on your heels. Keeping the palms open on the knees, take a deep breath though the nose. Now let out a loud roar while opening your mouth and eyes as wide as you can.
5. Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana):
Happy baby pose is a great pose to stretch the lower back muscles and aid relaxation.
For this pose, one should lie on the back and bending the knees hold on either to the ankles, feet or the thighs. In a gentle motion pull the legs towards the ground and then gently rock sideways while making cooing sounds like a baby.
6. Boat Pose (Naukasana/Navasana):
This pose strengthens the core muscles and even tones the kidneys.
Sitting down with knees stretched out together, extend your arms straight out in the front near the knees. Now lift the toes off the ground and find the balance on your buttocks. Once you find your balance, straighten the legs out fully.
7. Cow-Cat Pose (Bitilasana):
Cow-Cat is a pose that stretches the spine and gets the body ready for exercise.
For this pose, position yourself on all fours. Making sure that your hips are directly over the knees and shoulders over the wrists, flatten the palms while spreading the fingers. Breathe, looking up, arch the back and open the chest out, all the while mooing and pretending to be a cow.
8. Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana):
This helps induce relaxation and improves kidney function.
Sit erect on the floor with your legs stretched out. The fold your left leg under the right buttock. Fold your right leg over the left thigh. Now stretch your right arm over your back from over the shoulder and try to touch your left arm trying to reach your right arm. With practice you will be able to clasp them together. Hold for as long as comfortable. Switch. Repeat.
9. Table Top Pose:
Table Top is great for strengthening the back and toning the muscles.
Sit on the ground, bending your knees and keeping feet flat on the ground. Your knees should be as far apart as the width of your hips. Placing the hands around a foot behind you, position yourself with them facing your hips. Put pressure against your hands and feet and lift the body up to resemble a table.
10. Camel Pose:
Camel pose improves breathing, thus helping to relieve stress and develop positive energy.
In a kneeling position, tuck in the toes. While placing hands on the lower back, lift your chest upwards towards the ceiling. Arching the upper body, hold the position for as long as comfortable. Remember to breathe deep into the pose.
The other ten best positions and their benefits are as follows.
12. Dancer Pose
15. Dolphin Pose
16. Door Pose
17. Dragonfly Pose
18. Eagle Pose
19. Fish Pose
20. Flamingo Pose
These 10 poses are demonstrated in the following video.
Best children yoga classes in USA
With that being said not all yoga studios that work great for adults will work for children. In your search for one, look for family studios so that they have staggered groups for different ages such as infant, toddlers, teens and adults.
Certification in children’s yoga is critical and they should meet all the safety guidelines issued by a recognized body of pediatricians. The teachers and staff should have the requisite training to teach yoga programs to children specifically.
Many offer online yoga classes as well and if that works for your family there is no reason for not doing so. There are many reputed children’s yoga classes in San Diego and Los Angeles in California and Chicago, Illinois and along the East coast. If you don’t find a class close to you then online classes will work just as well too.
The number of Americans practicing yoga or ‘Yogis’ as they are called, has grown staggeringly in the past few years. According to the latest statistics out of the 300 million yogis worldwide, around 35 million are in America itself. Moreover, there are more than 5000 Yoga studios in the country. One in three Americans has tried it at least once.
More and more people, looking for stress relief and improving their quality of life are looking at Yoga as an effective way of achieving it.