I think the benefits of yoga for both adults and children is becoming more widely known in the western world; increased flexibility and relaxation being the most common expectation from new yogis. Indeed the most common reasons I have seen for parents sending their children to yoga is to help them ‘calm down’ or ‘make them less hyper’.
Of course, this is true – children do experience a certain level of calm and composure in class, and they do learn over time to apply mindfulness techniques in their daily lives; however, the main reason THEY choose to come to yoga, is because they find it fun!
A good children’s yoga teacher will understand that a class of children will not want to move slowly for an hour, or sit for any longer than 5 minutes without feeling a little restless. I often think that parents are a little surprised by how dynamic kids classes are: they move a lot, at times they move fast, they move creatively, intuitively, and ….they talk alot!
And you know what? This is good. This is what we should be cultivating: a passion for movement, a love of connecting with others and the world around them, enthusiasm for using their initiative and inspiration to allow their creativity to flow.
Yoga is an art, and in children’s yoga we can expand into the other arts: poetry, literature, illustration and drama.
And none of this diminishes the beauty of yoga as we know it, because in and amongst all of this stimulus is the teaching of the awareness of the breath; the ability to consciously let the body relax; the techniques to focus the mind. A,nd of course, through asana, a thorough stretch and strengthening of the body and harmonising of the bodily systems.
We do not need to arbitrarily ‘teach’ children yoga – we show them the shapes, we give them the opportunity to use these in their own creative way. We guide them into understanding their body a little more, we guide them in their journey of understanding and handling emotions; but as a yoga teacher, we don’t expect ‘perfection’ or silence, we expect them to be themselves – we accept them as themselves and then it our task to use our own creativity to hold the class together!
So you see…our Little Yogis are learning to calm their minds a little and they are becoming more flexible, but MORE IMPORTANTLY they are learning to use the differing and ever fluctuating energies of their body, to express themselves whilst learning how to bring these energies into balance.
Like the rise and fall of the sun and the moon, you can’t, and wouldn’t have one without the other. Little Yogis need the sun energy as much as the moon…so keep your classes fun!