Yoga is a helpful tool that can have a positive impact on children. Just some of the many benefits of teaching yoga to kids are:
After much research and trialing of many different activities, we have chosen yoga to be a permanent provision at our nursery. Miri Renert visits the preschool once a week to carry out 30 minute structured yoga sessions in the dance room. Each term, the day changes so that all children have the opportunity to benefit from these wonderful sessions, which are happily included in our fees.
Why we chose yoga…
Yoga is so beneficial to children of preschool age. Absorbing all that is around them – they are constantly dealing with many distractions, temptations, over-stimulation and peer pressure.
- It helps develop body awareness
- They learn how to use their bodies in a healthy way
- They manage negative (or positive) feelings through breathing, awareness, meditation and healthy movement
- It builds their concentration skills
- It increases their confidence and positive self-image
- They can feel part of a healthy, non-competitive group
- In a world of technology – these skills will be important as they grow as they will have an alternative to tuning out through the inevitable excitement of electronic devices
In the sessions themselves Young Friends children learn:
1. An awareness of the breath
Breathing exercises can energize children or encourage relaxation, depending on what is focused on each session. Different games and techniques help children to connect to how their bodies feel as a result of deep breathing. Focus increases, as does their breathing and lung capacity. Stress is naturally reduced and healthy hormones are released.
2. Strengthening and energizing
If asked, children often think that yoga is great for stretching, but doesn’t build strength. Our yoga teacher talks about and teaches exercises around how helpful yoga is for building strength. Talking about the different muscles used in poses and incorporating games and sequences helps build strength as well as body awareness and coordination. Bodies that are strong digest food better, maintain a healthy weight and can support the stress of carrying heavy loads, like a school backpack! Bodies will also breathe better, work more efficiently and protect the more fragile joints.
Balancing poses teach children that with increased focus, you can increase attention naturally, even in those who struggle with different attention challenges. Poses and games focused on balancing skills, develop an intrinsic strength, evoke a meditative feeling, and promote stillness and quieting of the mind. This can help children deal with the stress of living in a chaotic world where constant stimulation is a regular part of life.
4. Stretching and lengthening
It’s great for children to be strong, but a body that’s only based on strength has no way to yield under pressure. Strong muscles without accompanying flexibility can’t move quickly, pulling on bones and joints. Yoga poses stretch muscles and through integrating breathing and movement, muscles become warm and become more flexible. They can yield when they need to, and support tender joints in a more functional way.
5. Awareness and focus
Yoga helps create awareness in the body through deep breathing and movement. It gives children a way to express themselves, build a strong connection between what they hear and what they do. Children that have healthy body awareness are more confident and strong, have better posture, breathe better and have a sense of quiet strength.
6. Flowing, connecting and integrating
When we string poses together, we give children a taste of what it means to move with ease. It also helps them build the awareness that all our movements are a series of coordinated efforts between muscles, bones, joints and nerves. With the basis they are given with us at nursery, when they are older, if they carry on with yoga, our children will be more able to isolate different muscle groups and get more sophisticated about movements; things like keeping the arms lifted in Warrior 1, while at the same time, dropping the shoulders to relax them. All these things together increase a child’s sense feeling integrated.
7. Meditation and relaxation
Yoga is meditative by nature. So whether a child is holding a balancing posture, sitting in meditation or moving through a series of poses, there’s going to be a calming, soothing quality. Giving younger children something to do as they rest on their mats helps with their attention, such as suggesting they think of a favorite color or toy. When they are older they will find it easier to rest longer with less structure.
Miri teaches our young preschoolers yoga through games, doing simple yoga poses and singing songs with big, expressive movements. When they are older they will start to create their own poses, be challenged by balancing and learn about the muscles and other aspects of anatomy.