‘Love makes you innocent like a child. A child is the most receptive person. Keep the child within alive. A child never tires of hearing the birds sing, never gets bored looking at flowers.’ – Amma
What is the best gift we may give to our children? We live in a busy and hurry-up world nowadays, mainly in our modern societies. Our children are also affected by the stress of our modern world, dealing with school pressures, extra classes, competitive sports, busy parents, excess of videogames, and so on. All these influences may have a negative effect on children’s mental well-being if they are not attended or counteracted.
Yogasana practice can help counter these pressures. As they learn techniques for health, relaxation and inner growth, they are able to manage life challenges in an easier way. They also improve their self-esteem and body awareness with a physical activity that is non-competitive and foster cooperation and compassion.
Yogasana has many benefits for children in body, mind and spirit. Physically, it enhances their flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness. It can also be helpful assisting neuromuscular development, increasing balance, improving posture and alignment, strengthening the immune system, relaxing the body and promoting better sleep.
In addition, yogasana calms and clears the mind, relieves tension and anxiety, while improving concentration and relaxation. It promotes the thinking process and memory development, expands imagination and creativity, balances energy and improves the ability to be more mindful of thoughts, words and actions.
Thanks to the practice of yogasana, children are able to build their confidence and self-esteem, developing discipline and self-control. It is a nice way to support their character development and emotional intelligence. It also enhances team skills and social interaction and at the same time as supporting individuality and self-expression.
Besides the immense physical and mental benefits, a central tenet of yogasana practice is respect and honor. In addition to body awareness, it also encourages social and environmental awareness, inspiring respect for themselves and others. Doing yogasana, children get to exercise, play, connect more deeply with the inner self, and develop an intimate relationship with the natural world that surrounds them. Yogasana brings that marvelous inner light that all children have to the surface and supports a sense of universal connectedness.
When yogis developed the asanas many thousands of years ago, they still lived close to the natural world and used animals and plants for inspiration—the sting of a scorpion, the grace of a swan, the grounded stature of a tree. When children imitate the movements and sounds of nature, they have a chance to imagine taking on the qualities of another being. The physical movements introduce kids to yogasana’s true meaning: union, expression, and honor for oneself and one’s part in the delicate web of life.
From the teacher’s point of view, yogasana with children offers many possibilities to exchange wisdom, share good times, and lay the foundation for a lifelong practice that will continue to deepen. All that is needed is a little flexibility on the adult’s part to honor the children’s innate intelligence, tuning in and co-creating with them. Ideally, the teacher guides the children while simultaneously opening the heart, letting the child guide too. The teaching/learning process will be thus continually reciprocal and provide an opportunity for everyone to create, express themselves, and grow together.
The greatest challenge with children is to hold their attention long enough to teach them the benefits of yogasana: stillness, balance, flexibility, focus, peace, grace, connection, health, and well-being.
Children will jump at the chance to assume the role of animals, trees, flowers, warriors. The teacher’s role is to step back and allow them to bark in the dog pose, hiss in the cobra, meow in cat stretch, giving them freedom to act…and more importantly to have fun!!
B.K.S. Iyengar says, ‘They love speed and variety. If children are motivated to perform asanas with different combinations and permutations, they get inspired to do more and more.’
Children need to discover the world on their own. Telling them to think harder, do it better, or be a certain way is not the optimal way. Instead, it is better to provide a loving, responsive, creative environment for them to uncover their own truths. As they perform the various animal and nature asanas, they engage their minds and deepen their awareness.
B.K.S. Iyengar also says, ‘Children are blessed with innocence and freshness. Through yogasana, it is possible to skillfully transform their vanity and competitive spirit into useful forms of energy. Yogasana channelizes their thoughts and makes them responsible citizens of the world.’
When they stretch like a dog or stand tall like a tree or strong as a mountain, they are making a connection between the macrocosm (their environment) and the microcosm (their bodies). Children begin to understand that we are all made of the same matter: We’re just in different forms, playing different roles in the creation, like waves in the ocean.
Quoting our dear Amma, ‘There is no difference between the Creator and creation, just as there is no difference between the ocean and its waves.’
Similarly, Paramahamsa Yogananda says, ‘The wave is the same as the ocean, though it is not the whole ocean. So each wave of creation is a part of the eternal ocean of spirit. The ocean can exist without the waves, but the waves cannot exist without the ocean.’
Furthermore, the benefits of yogasana can be effective if it is performed in the school setting, focusing the education not only on intellectual purposes, but also on educating the whole child, in body, mind and spirit. This helps to create an atmosphere of confidence, enthusiasm and non-competitiveness where everyone can succeed. It may also provide opportunities for reflection, patience and insight, reducing impulsivity and reactivity, creating a calmer and more harmonious classroom.
Bringing students to the present moment is the most basic requirement for learning, and this may be accomplished better through yogasana. The practice promotes a more relaxed, peaceful, comfortable state of being, the perfect state for teaching and learning. Amma tells, ‘A real yogi is one who can maintain a peaceful mind in the midst of any crisis,’ and similarly Paramahamsa Yogananda says, ‘Stillness is the altar of spirit.’
As a conclusion, we may say they are multiple reasons to promote the practice of yogasana especially during childhood, a crucial period of life when they are so receptive. Their body, mind and spirit are evolving dramatically, setting the basis for the future adulthood.
Yogasana is the precious heritage from our ancient sages in India which is truly applicable in our society nowadays, taking into consideration all the benefits provided for the individual and the society, at all levels of existence.
As stated in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, “Yogasana Is The Journey Of The Self, Through The Self To The Self.”
Let us all join this journey together for a better overall sense of well-being, spiritual growth and connection with the rest of beings. Let us realize our true self through a Holistic Yoga practice.
May children be able to know and experience the benefits of yogasana in their everyday life.
Author: Silvia Hidalgo Daya