Recent studies show children to be more inactive and to experience more stress and mental health issues than in previous years. Society’s reliance on technology has been blamed, and whatever the reason, as a school teacher I have certainly noticed that children are lacking developmentally in physical areas such as fine and gross motor-skills as well as emotional areas such as self-confidence, initiative, willingness to make an effort and empathy for others.
So can practising yoga help our children to develop these qualities?
Yes it can!
Even as babies, children are naturally drawn towards yoga. When I first started teaching Mum and Baby yoga I was worried that the babies would cry throughout the class.
Not at all!
Instead, babies watch with awestruck focus as their mums practise yoga, and they visibly enjoy practice that involves them.
In the images and video shown here, my niece and nephew demonstrate the natural pull that young souls have towards the energy of yoga, if taught in the right way. This pair have not been practising consistent yoga from birth, yet at two years old, they have taken to it like ducks to water and will often ask to ‘do yoga’ whenever they come around.
In my yoga classes I have let my imagination run wild turning yogic movement and poses into child inspiring objects, machines and creatures, plus making use of the fact that many yoga poses are already named after animals! Kids love to pretend to be these things and there is ample opportunity for sound to be created. The use of sound teaches children how to use the breath; we make sound as we exhale, so children can be shown how to link exhalations with certain movements (movement in time with the breath is one of the basics of yoga) as well as experience how exhalations, particularly sounded exhalations can soothe the body and mind.
I also use songs and rhymes throughout the practise helping toddlers develop their verbal and musical skills, while yoga chants help them connect with a deeper energy and prove very calming.
Holding poses, repetitive movements, breathing, sound and simple visualisations all allow the child’s brain to experience a meditative focus. Meditation is proven to boost memory and cognitive skills, increase attention span and ability to ignore distractions, and improve emotional well-being. It is also said to help children manage ADHD.
Physically, the movements and yoga poses help toddlers develop good posture, build good mind-body awareness and proprioception skills (knowing where their body is in space) along with hand-eye co-ordination and motor skills.
Very naturally, at this age, toddlers will dip in and out of the yoga practice, which is fine! Rest assured, they are absorbing everything that’s going on. A child who has run around the studio all throughout the ‘butterfly song’ will go home after class and sing ‘Fly like a butterfly’ with all the matching actions. Plus, simply being with other humans that are practising yoga will have a powerful positive energetic effect on children.
If you join in with your child’s yoga practice, you will reap the benefits of yoga (toned core, flexible muscles, release of tension) while providing your child with sensory stimulation that promotes their physical and behavioural development, and ability to form healthy attachments. Yoga provides an important bonding opportunity for you and your child.
Giving your young child a chance to express themselves freely through movement in a supportive atmosphere helps them to build self-confidence, and a ‘have-a-go’ attitude. Empathy is promoted as toddlers experience enjoyable co-operation with their peers and caregivers through interactive yoga.
Watch us in action:
Here are a few snippets of a family toddler yoga class…
And here is a full family toddler yoga class you can try with your little one! Don’t be surprised if they dip in and out. They are taking it all in!
Here are some clips from a kid’s yoga class for children aged 4-7 years.