When Kids Do Yoga: 5 Things to Keep in Mind
1. Volunteers Only
As parents, we want the best for our kids, and health ranks quite highly on that list. Perhaps you are new to yoga yourself but love all the benefits you've read about. As a mom or dad, it naturally occurs that those benefits can also better the life and outlook of your kid. This is a very accurate conclusion. Yoga can help children relax, cope with difficult life phases or problems and perform better at other sports.
However, the most important thing about introducing yoga to kids is this—they must be willing to give it a try. Even when you are convinced yoga's health benefits are non-negotiable in your own life, one cannot force anyone else to join this ancient art. Your offspring included. If Junior says “No” then one needs to be mature enough to drop the issue without making him or her feel bad about it. Often, young children will approach the subject themselves when they see their parents do yoga.
Similarly, many kids start out on fire. They're full of enthusiasm and attend all their yoga classes—for a month. Then they no longer want to do yoga and instead nag to get signed up for horse riding lessons. Forcing the child to stay in yoga will only make things worse. At the least, try to compromise—something like a weekly yoga lesson and horse riding school. However, if one cannot afford both, it might be best to let Junior sit on a horse. It's normal for kids to bounce around activities until they find something that truly speaks to them.
Children Are Natural Explorers
2. Watch a Class
Your child wants to do yoga! The next step is to enroll them into a class. Unless they specifically want to learn at home, a class is a great option. They get to meet other children and have fun outside of a school setting. However, parents need to know their kids are with a responsible adult in a safe environment. It's your right to watch a class before you decide, so find a studio that doesn't mind. If one refuses because it will “distract the child,” rather move on.
Study the dynamics between the teacher and students. Are the kids comfortable with him or her? Do they look uptight and worried? You're looking for a class where children enjoy the poses, are happy, spontaneous and into their teacher. Most importantly, the teacher must be safety conscious. Yoga is generally safe but any physical activity carries the risk of injury.
Equality for All
The following gender-related issues are general and doesn't apply to every boy or girl. However, most experience these challenges and yoga can help. For one, yoga is an equalizer; nobody is better than the other. This environment welcomes both boys and girls on equal footing, who need to learn to respect each other's differences.
3. Benefits for Boys
Rare is the male child not exposed to the pressure to be more macho. There's nothing wrong with confidence but where the latter takes root in a healthy satiety and respect for others, the concept of being macho focuses specifically on separation. Male from the "inferior" female and even “weak” males who choose a life that doesn't involve hard drinking, partying and sleeping around as they grow older. One of the best things yoga does for the young boy or teenager is to give them a safe space to be themselves and heal any separation from their bodies. The “us and them” notion that's causing so much damage today has no place in the yoga studio where students are naturally more connected with the opposite gender (and all sorts that make the world).
Yoga's benefits can enhances other activities your child enjoy, whether it's ballet or wrestling. This point counts for both genders, but specifically, yoga corrects something that's more often found in boys. As they develop their muscles, do weight lifting or participate in activities that bulk them up, they may look healthy. However, bulging muscles are in a near-permanent state of being shortened, making them easier to tear, and they also hamper full joint mobility. When yoga is added, even bulky muscles and their tendons stay limber, cutting chances of injury. It also returns flexibility to the skeleton, which enhances performance.
Healthy Gender Views
4. Benefits for Girls
Girls can also look at the opposite gender in an unhealthy way; either with disdain or looking for love in all the wrong places. They also see dividing lines between races and religious backgrounds. Similar to boys, yoga can drive the point home that we're all in this world together. That said, girls face problems boys won't. As they grow older, female issues can range from being embarrassing to bringing life to a complete halt. Periods, PMS and changing bodies—and the shaming that often goes with it—are serious issues. Yoga zaps this problem in two ways; it reconnects girls with their bodies in a healthy emotional manner as well as being a powerful antidote to PMS.
Self-image problems are not just for teenagers. Girls as young as four or five already think they “are not beautiful” or that men are smarter. Neither is true but the media, schools and often parents contribute to skewed gender views. It takes one mean “You're just a girl,” to start that snowball rolling. Yoga and meditation instill the lasting foundation for a healthy self-image, which in turn helps not to feel smothered by society's obsession with youth and beauty. It's the greatest gift we can give our daughters; to love themselves first.
5. Parent and Child Relationship
If both you and your child are hooked on yoga, another great truth will emerge. Yoga abolishes another problematic border—the wall between the generations. Age doesn't matter in the studio or on the exercise mat at home. When parents and children share a craft, it binds them. They grow their skills together, talk about new challenges, discuss problems and the latest equipment. In yoga's case, retreats and yoga holidays are available for the entire family. Even you never go on such a trip, just doing a class together or shopping for new mats are great ways yoga bonds families. A good bond is worth gold for the parent who wants to be there when children go through tough changes such as divorce, a diagnosis or becoming teenagers.
© 2018 Jana Louise Smit