Have you ever heard anyone say “namaste” to a group of children? For those of you who think it would be impossible to get them to sit still for five minutes straight, think again.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended yoga as a safe and potentially effective therapy for young ones who are coping with emotional, mental, physical or behavioural health conditions, and there’s a good reason for that.
“Stretching the body can relieve tense or rigid muscles. Certain movements can even ease constipation. Also, holding yoga poses increases strength and stamina when practised regularly,” says Dr Maurice El Khoury, specialist paediatrician at Healthpoint. Experts say that because yoga involves a combination of postures, hand poses, meditation and regulated breathing techniques, its benefits may often exceed those of certain types of sports. “Most importantly, the wellbeing aspect of yoga can help youngsters disconnect from technology and go on a mini digital detox, encouraging them to focus on the here and now.
They gain awareness of how their bodies function and manage their emotions much more effectively,” he adds.
Numerous studies have shown that yoga improves mood, self-confidence and concentration, while reducing anxiety and hyperactivity — all of which applies to children as well.
“Research published in The American Journal of Occupational Therapy has found that daily yoga helps children with autism spectrum disorder, lowering their levels of social withdrawal,” El Khoury explains. A separate study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Paediatrics revealed that introducing yoga to high school physical education classes lifted teenagers’ moods, alleviating anxiety and leading to higher test scores. Yoga for better grades? That sounds like a dream come true.
So how exactly can you encourage your kids to do yoga, and more movement-filled activities in general?
“Some people have misconceptions about yoga, thinking that it’s not real exercise. To the contrary, children of all ages, backgrounds and fitness levels can benefit from it, with many top athletes using it as a form of cross training,” he says.
If your little ones find yoga difficult at first, explain to them that, the more they practise, the more naturally the poses will come to them, and try joining them for a session.
QR80 (per class). Yama Yoga Studios. West Bay (5572 1728). Other location: Al Waab (6617 5802).
FIVE TOP YOGA POSES FOR KIDS
This simple backbend gives strength to the spine and the thighs and is one of the easiest yoga poses to children to quickly pick up and perform it correctly.
The tree pose focuses on balance. All they need to do it place each foot on the inner thigh in turns and press their hands together above the head. If the kids find it difficult, they can do it against a wall.
This stretch requires the child to lie face down and lift the upper half of the body. It promotes a sturdy back and abs and increases strength.
The cat pose relaxes and stretches the spine, neck, torso and the organs of the abdomen. It’s basically a gentle kneading for the back and core.
Children might find this one the most fun. Show them how to bend their backs like bows. This pose is great for hip flexibility and regulates the digestive system. Allow for some rest on the stomach once done.