By: Shi, HappyFishYoga
Questions that I often received from parents or those who first heard “kids yoga” are “Why kids need to learn yoga?”; “What benefits kids gain by practicing yoga?” ; “Is Yoga a religion?” and etc. Undeniably, kids yoga apparently still represents a very new concept to parents, schools and public in Malaysia. Furthermore, common misconceptions that public always have towards kids yoga are they perceive kids yoga either purely “physical” exercise where kids have to perform or achieve “difficult” and “advance” poses which sometimes is quite terrifying or they think kids yoga is another time for kids just come to “play” and “sweat” which kids can gain the same benefits as well when they are doing any other “physical exercises”.
Why Kids Yoga?
This is also a question i used to ask myself “Why Kids Yoga”? Apparently there was no “Kids Yoga” during our childhood time, even back to early 90, children those days “play” and “move” a lot. In addition, our life in those time were much stress-free, We didn’t have “unfinished” homework. We didn’t have to attend tuition and other classes after school or weekend. We didn’t have “tablets” or “computer games” to play with. We play in nature and we were very much live in simple life as compared to now. Life has never been as stressful and complex now, We lived in fast paced lifestyle, busy schedule and always in a hurry. Kids nowadays are living the most stressful time in history not only receiving pressures from parents, schools and society but also among themselves. Furthermore, many children these days face unhealthy lifestyles such as sleep deficit, unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, excessive tech use, obesity, lack of physical exercise and etc. There is also an increasing numbers of kids nowadays suffer from mental problems such as anxiety, depression or behavioral problem like apathy, violence, lack of social skills, bullying and etc.
Therefore, yoga for kids is becoming increasingly widespread all over the world especially in western country now where parents, schools, educators, yoga practitioners are seeking for an alternative to help to overcome and deal with the abovementioned challenges and problems that our kids face in this modern edge. Yoga is not a religion. Yoga is well known as the practice for body and mind. Therefore by teaching kids yoga, we are empowering our kids with techniques and tools that will help them through the rest of their life.
We will categorise the benefits of kids yoga by viewing from three perspectives namely physical, mental and spiritual. Each perspective will be discussed in-depth in the following paragraph.
A Healthy Body
The first and foremost benefit that people often gain immediately when practice yoga is physical health. This applies to kids as well. Kids are always attracted by performing various Asana (Yoga poses) in class especially animal poses and natural-associated poses such as tree, mountain, sun salutation and etc. As these yoga poses are something that can kids can easily associated in life and they feel extremely “fun” by exploring their body when they are attempting to do the poses. In fact, various yoga poses carry different physical benefits, for instance chest opening pose such as snake, camel and fish pose help kids to “open up their lungs” which helps in improving kids respiratory system, improve bad posture, activate thyroid gland which controls all of the emotions and etc. Forward bend poses such as child pose is wonderful pose for kids to calm their minds and sleep better. The gentle squeeze which apply pressure to abdominal area in all forward bending poses helps kids to improve their digestion. Balancing poses such tree pose helps kids to stay balance and focus. It also improve their body co-ordination. Generally yoga poses not only help kids enhances their flexibility and build muscle strength. It also helps kids promote overall health and improve various bodily system function.
A Calm Mind
I often feel yoga provides our kids a “Mental Break” which they can practice anytime anywhere. This mental break helps kids relax, unwind, and calm themselves. This can be done through yoga breathing, singing (mantra chanting), gentle yoga movement, relaxation, quiet time practice and etc. In here, I would like to particularly highlight the “role” of breathing in helping kids to manage stress, anxiety and calm their busy mind. One of the important components that differentiate yoga from other physical exercise is “breathing”. Breathing can be practiced together when performing yoga pose or individually. Whenever kids facing stressful situation, emotional burst out or mentally exhausted, by taking a deep and long breath (diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing) which will lead to stimulation of our parasympathetic nervous systems, this helps slowing down our heart rate, lowering our blood pressure, and calming our body and mind. I often use a simile of “blowing the balloon” for abdominal breathing. I tell kids whenever you feel angry, sad, stress or nervous, just remember to blow the balloons, and i never forget one 6 years old girl told her daddy who picked her after class that “if you are angry, remember blow three balloons”.
A Happy Soul
Despite yoga are more well-known for physical and mental benefits, Yoga also allows kids develop happiness, compassion, love, peace and joy. I start my every class with the greeting “Namaskar”. Namaskar or Namaste is a Sanskrit word which means “the divine in me salutes the divine in you”. I often explain to kids we all have an beautiful angel who is kind, helpful and full of love in our heart. When i greet “Namaskar” to you, i see and say “hello” to the angel inside you. Also not forgetting, there is “angel” inside me as well. This teaches kids self-acceptance for fully embracing for whom they are. This also reminds kids, we are all “beautiful” from within and we learn to see the beautiful part of others. Also another very important practice in kids yoga is “quiet time practice”. My teacher Tamminga once said “Meditation and Yoga helps to plant the seed of kindness into children's heart. You never know whether they will experience the bliss again when they grow up, but the seeds planted will make it possible for them to touch the feeling again in future”. Indeed, to me, that is ultimate goal for kids to practice yoga, imagine if our kids are brought up in the environment that full of love, kindness, compassion and non-judgemental, this will bring the positive impacts and changes to our society in long run and which ultimately create a better and peaceful word. Just like one of the Dalai Lama’s famous quote says”If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation”. To me that is the biggest benefit that our children earns by practicing yoga. Namaskar.
One of the ongoing efforts that Shi and her fellow teachers have been working since 2012 in Malaysia is to create and public awareness to have a better understanding on kids yoga and the associated benefits that kids yoga bring to kids, family and our society in long run. Indeed, the team initiate a project known as "KL Kids Yoga festival" which will be happening this June 4 & 5 at Damansara Performing Art center (DPAC) PJ. The theme for this festival is "Love in Action".
2016 KL Kids Yoga Festival is a two day event and should be considered the very first big kids yoga event to be held in Malaysia.The first day conference will feature both overseas and local speakers and a variety of talks/ workshops which covers topics in Kids Yoga,Children Well-beings. Mindfulness, Yoga Education in School, Children and family quiet time. The second day of the festival will be the part where the fun and laughter comes in. We will have a charity parent & kids yoga session in the morning and various interactive yoga classes & workshops designed for kids or parents and kids in the afternoon
Who should attend
Day 1 (June 4th) - Yoga teachers, special education teachers, educators and school teachers, parents, health care professionals, whoever passionate in kid development and etc. We also provide sponsored ticket for those in need to attend the conference free of charge (Low income family or with financial difficulties / Single Parent / Parents with special needs /Teachers/Volunteer who work in nonprofit organisation which must be kids related )
Day 2 (June 5th) - Parent & Kids (4-11yo)/Kids (4-11yo) / Teen (12-18yo)
For more information and registration, please do not hesitate to email email@example.com
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/everywhereislove.loveiseverywhere
About the Author:
Shi is a kids yoga teacher, artisan, storyteller and meditator. She attained Complementary Health Education Diploma in Yoga Teaching (C.H.Ed Dip Yoga),UK in 2008，Certification in Basic Kids Yoga Teacher training (Rainbow abc Taiwan) in 2012 and intermediate teacher training in 2015. She also attended Yoga for the Special Child® LLC Basic 1 & 2 Program in 2012. Before that, Shi has earned her MBA (International) at Nottingham University, UK, yet, with her passion & love in yoga, she quit her corporate job in 2011 & establish happyfishyoga with the little inspiration to build a career which she passionate about and to propound the healthy yogic lifestyle to the public especially children yoga. Shi has been actively involved in teaching and advocating kids yoga in Malaysia since 2012, Apart kids yoga, Shi has been involved herself extensively since 2012 in yoga for children with special needs, kids quiet time and mindfulness practice, yoga education in school, peace mama projects, family yoga, parent-kids yoga,creative storytelling & etc.
Get connected to Shi on HappyFishYoga here to find out more about kids yoga,