Itsy bitsy yoga: The new exercise for kids
Bend, stretch, breathe. Ahhhhhhh. When it comes to the mind cleansing body arching exercise of yoga, adults aren't the only ones reaping the benefits. After all, the mind-body connection doesn't have to be achieved in adulthood. In fact, experts say you're better off exposing yoga to your child so it becomes a way of life.
Mother knows best
Just take it from Dawn Querisima, mother of a seven year-old son, who runs Dahn Yoga in Long Island, New York whose classes include stretching, breathing exercises, and meditation. Yoga is a great exercise for kids because it is a natural extension of what we intrinsically do as babies. "Babies are yogis. They do it naturally when they're born. Babies are always connecting their life energy through their core." And unlike worrisome adults, they don't obsess about the past or create anxiety about the future.
Querisima recommends encouraging your kids to go to a yoga class and focus on being in the moment through breathing and relaxing exercises. "Parents need to be the models. It's really hard for kids to make it part of their lifestyle if parents don't make it part of theirs."
For instance, in addition to setting a positive example to her son, Dawn watches his behavior and encourages him to release his feelings. When her son gets angry, she tells him to tap on his chest to shout and get it out. "The physical release lets him experience it and go through it without keeping his emotions bottled in," she explains.
It does a body good
So, what's the right program for your kid? That depends. Querisima has mature girls who are ready at age five, while there may be seven year-old boys who aren't truly ready. It depends on the child and, in the case when they're not ready, they may require one-on-one attention in the beginning. "Typically," she says, "starting at five years old can be good."
The benefits of yoga in kids can be seen outside of the yoga studio. "We get a lot of good feedback; kids are more focused in school or more confident in school," she says. They also turn the focus away from a weekly class of yoga per se, to simply having fun. "We play games with kids, including coordination exercises. They're having a lot of fun and don't even know they're doing yoga." For instance, the children release bursts of energy by dancing around. "We let them use that energy." With adults in her class it's about stretching, whereas it's all about movement with kiddie yoga.
Centered, focused and in control
It's also about being present for the kids. As more and more adults do yoga, not only is it creating a positive modeling behavior for your kids, it's helping adults themselves become more centered. "This is the greatest gift you can give your child," she notes.
Above all, it's valuable to unwind and reconnect regardless of the age. As burnout status among kids is at an all-time high, creating the space and downtime via yoga exercises will hopefully help them eventually ease into adulthood and tackle a prevalence of insomnia, anxiety, and depression. "Let kids connect to themselves. Practice meditation at home and ensure they wind down before bedtime."