We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.
Maria Montessori, 1870-1952
Certified YogaKids Teacher (CYKT)
Years of providing psychological care to children has taught me that the troublesome thoughts, feelings, and behaviors children struggle with reside as much in their bodies as their minds. This awareness, along with my own personal love of yoga, led me to pursue certification as a children’s yoga instructor so that I could integrate body work, when beneficial or requested, into my psychological work with children.
I became a certified children’s yoga instructor in 2015 through YogaKids® International, Inc. after completing 200 hours of Yoga Alliance approved training over the course of 3 years. Founded by Marsha Wenig in 1991, the company is a leading provider of yoga to children around the world. The method integrates stories, music, and art to provide a developmentally sensitive yoga experience for children, preschool through adolescence. A unique component of the curriculum involves Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Multiple modalities—verbal, logical, spatial, musical, kinesthetic—are used to enable children with differing learning styles and needs to benefit.
What yoga is…
Many mistakenly view yoga simply as an exercise of body poses used to promote flexibility, but authentic yoga involves much more. Intrinsic in yoga philosophy is a larger emphasis on self-care and self-acceptance, active compassion toward nature and all living beings, and living daily with peace and gratitude.
Although traditions of yoga are found in the religious practices of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism one does not need to adhere to any particular religion to participate and benefit from yoga. In this respect yoga might be compared to martial arts such as karate or Judo—one does not need to adhere to Japanese religious doctrine in order to practice and benefit. A broader sense of spirituality is the focus in yoga, which may be defined as a sense of connectedness with something greater than oneself—for example, connectedness with one’s Creator or one’s God. Individuals may define their Creator as they wish, incorporating their own beliefs into yoga practice should they so desire.
How yoga helps children…
With our over-scheduled, be-all do-all lifestyles of today, children are unfortunately experiencing higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression than have been experienced by earlier generations. Furthermore, early adolescence is a challenging time as rapid physical, cognitive and emotional growth occurs. Teenagers naturally struggle with identity tasks—self-acceptance, social issues with peers, and academic pressures. Yoga is useful to all children, but can be particularly helpful to those suffering from high stress or anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and exposure to traumatic events. A dedicated yoga practice gives children time away from their busy lives to dedicate toward their overall wellbeing. Some benefits include the following:
- Children learn how their minds and bodies are linked and inextricably influence each other.
- Children learn mindfulness–a state of being in the present moment which fosters awareness, attention, and focus.
- Through yoga postures children experience gratitude for their bodies and what they are capable of doing, improving self-esteem and growing confidence.
- Yoga practice helps children develop physical strength and flexibility. This benefits all children but is an added benefit for those who play sports. A growing number of athletes practice yoga regularly for mind-body benefit and to optimize performance.
- Through yoga poses, breath work, and meditation children learn to induce relaxation, quieting their minds and calming their bodies. What a gift to learn this valuable skill as a child!
- When practicing yoga in a group class, children develop a sense of playfulness, compassion and care for their fellow group members. This may be the only group your child is a part of in which there is no competition or pressure to achieve.