Let’s Play! Yoga for Kids
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw
[Note: Scroll down all the way to the bottom of this article for giveaway details: a 10-session yoga package is waiting to be won!]
Do you long to let your imagination run wild? In a galaxy, where mystical creatures roam and thrilling adventures reign? Do you yearn to ask a million and one questions about everything and anything?
In comparison, do you get bored doing routine tasks? Is it difficult for you to stay cheery at the end of a long day? Is it frustrating to always struggle with never-ending work and deadlines?
Welcome to our world – and the world of our children.
It is a hectic cycle for kids. They are expected to excel in their studies, and be exposed to a range of enrichment courses. Parents inevitably feel the pressure to leave no stone unturned, lest their kids’ budding talents be left unpolished. Honestly, it is very rewarding for a child to master ballet techniques, perform in the year-end musical, or ace the grade five examination in piano. However, such clearly prescribed standards of achievements and emphasis on end goals might also place undue stress on the child.
In Kids Yoga, such indicators are fluid and even set aside. When we invite children to enter the world of Kids Yoga, they have chosen to join us as co-creators in every lesson. There is no competition, no conditions, and no compulsion. Any child can learn Yoga at any age, and with any level of physical or mental ability. At the first level, Yoga seeks to strengthen and relax body and mind through physical poses, good breathing and meditative exercises. On a deeper level, Yoga cultivates a harmonious lifestyle where we feel a greater connection with one another and our environment.
If you’re with us, let’s fly off together on our “magic yoga mats”!
Masters of Play
“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” – C.S. Lewis
With their innate talent for playing, children are experts in the art of play. The Kids Yoga teacher welcomes such talent, and facilitates the lesson based on the dynamic responses and ideas that are inspired throughout the session. In an Animal Adventure, children would morph into a roaring Lion, fluttering Butterfly or a sleeping Tortoise. Then it’s time for the kids to re-enact the story, or even conjure up an original fable of their own! Oh, you wish to add in a Warrior character to awaken an angry Tortoise? And mix in some music for the Dance of Fire? Go ahead and show us!
Such “playful experiences” are invaluable. Children expand their creativity and imagination while putting them to good use. They gain self-confidence as they take turns to lead and share their ideas with one another. Most of all, they feel actively involved in each lesson, and take ownership of their own learning. Kids Yoga is less about perfecting physical poses, and more on integrating inter-disciplinary tools to cater to the multiple intelligences of “playful children”.
“Play has been man’s most useful preoccupation.” – Frank Capra
An often-heard complaint is that of the distracted, unfocused and overactive nature of children. Kids are so difficult to manage! Isn’t that true? Or is it a greater truth that kids simply have a more expansive imagination than we do? When they hop around like a kangaroo, or chatter on about the lone slipper left on the opposite rooftop, shall we berate them for not concentrating and demand that they do “real” yoga poses instead? Or shall we recognise that a hopping Kangaroo also enhances their bodily coordination and connection to their environment? And a wondrous sense of curiosity is sparked off as we spin forth scenarios on the Mystery of the Slipper?
When we unduly restrain our children’s ideas and rein in their motions, they start to restlessly tune out and act up. Instead of dictating a one-size-fits-all learning method for everyone, why not observe their individual strengths and quirks, and… just go with the flow? Kids indirectly teach us the importance of staying flexible – to be present in any moment with complete joy and fulfillment. Watch as they explore and experiment, and you will discover that they become happily mindful and meaningfully occupied.
The More We Play Together
“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
In Yoga, we often talk about “dropping the ego”. For a child, that’s much easier said than done; their highly fragile sense of “self” is constantly being tested in our competitive society. In Yoga however, kids need not vie to outdo one another, and this becomes an optimal setting in which to develop a child’s emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ typically consists of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skill – the first three components are intrinsic, and the latter two are relating to others. When kids stretch their hamstrings in a Forward Bend, they enhance body flexibility and the efficiency of their body systems; they also start to be aware of the way their bodies move. This motivates them to co-create yoga lessons safely and with confidence.
There is a palpable excitement in the air in Kids Yoga – children take turns to lead Sun Salutations, support each other in Partner poses, and count in unison in holding poses. Yoga means “union”, or to “yoke” together one and all. Giving children the space to open up themselves helps to nurture the spirit of listening: first to oneself, and then to others.
The Joy of Being
“Drop the idea of becoming someone, because you are already a masterpiece. You cannot be improved. You have only to come to it, to know it, to realise it.” – Osho
When we believe in our children, they start to believe in themselves. When they recognise their own inner light, they start to release stress and let go of fears such as past failures and future anxieties. For what is the purpose of learning if not for the aim of developing our own unique – and joyful – “self ”?
This article was written by Wei Shimin, Lead Kids Yoga Teacher at OhmSantih Kids Yoga.
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