Why should your kids try yoga on Gozo?
Unless they do yoga themselves, parents sometimes tell me that yoga is not for kids because they have too much energy, or that they wouldn’t be able to sit still and listen. Physical activity is, of course, important, but not all children are sporty, and those that do enjoy sport also like an alternative. I’ve been practicing yoga and meditation myself for many years and what I’ve learned from teaching kids yoga is that – it’s not just yoga!
There are incredible benefits to kids yoga for bodies and minds and it’s a low-cost, effective tool that can have a major positive impact on children’s physical and emotional development.
- Non-competitive, fun, and a great equalizer whilst being social too.
- Builds strength and balance in the muscles and develops strong bones.
- Increases flexibility and mobility throughout the child’s body.
- Assists in developing a strong immune system with deep breathing – this reduces stress and stimulates the lymph system.
- Creates a calm and balanced nervous system.
- Releases healthy happy hormones.
- Performing yoga poses slowly, with guidance, and whilst remembering to breathe, increases balance and processing skills.
- Improves coordination, memory, and cognitive function, especially with the balancing poses.
- Practices focus and listening skills for a quiet mind.
- Enhances body and self-awareness by focussing the mind on individual body parts.
- Encourages imagination and storytelling.
- Educational and fun – a great alternative to tuning out with stimulating electronic devices.
- Practices language skills, following instructions, and creativity, especially if children are bilingual.
- Learning of the traditional names of yoga poses.
Kids Yoga Also…
- Incorporates all the ways of learning – visual, auditory, and ‘kinaesthetic’ (doing) so that all children are included. Kids yoga is especially helpful for children with sensory or other additional needs.
- Deep, slow, and aware breathing slows the heart rate, brings more oxygen into cells, relieves stress, and calms the mind. This also energizes, recharges, and balances energy levels.
- Positive affirmations give a deep sense of self-love, self-acceptance, and joy.
- Children learn songs and love making animal noises!
- Mindfulness helps children to feel calm, peaceful, relaxed and at ease with themselves.
- Helps to develop self-confidence and gives them the tools to deal with challenges in school and elsewhere.
- Being aware of emotions aids development.
- Gives great posture and body alignment using core strength.
- Better sleep – stressed out or overwhelmed children find it hard to relax.
- Great for the digestive system – tummies often rumble in the relaxation exercise.
- Learn how to roll up a yoga mat – takes some coordination for little ones!
As a kids yoga teacher, I see my classes as being co-created with the children. I’m the facilitator with lesson plans being fluid and flexible depending on the response and feedback of the children. There is a mixture of quiet listening and breathing, followed by yoga poses within the yoga story, and then a relaxation sequence including affirmations and mantras.
I encourage the yoga poses to be coordinated with the breath and they are mostly based on nature and animals that children recognize. In tree pose for example we all have roots deep into the ground, but the kids can choose to be a tiny young tree, or a massive tree up to the sky, or an apple tree with branches waving in the wind. We also stretch like a dog, balance like a flamingo, flutter our butterfly wings, and make many more animal shapes. I’ve lost count of how many rainbow-coloured butterflies I’ve been told about in my classes, and how many ladybirds have 15 spots, or more, depending on how many each child can proudly count to. I guide the children and they guide me.
how to help your child practice MOUNTAIN POSE (TADASANA)
Mountain pose is a grounding and static pose which practices awareness, stillness, giving and receiving energy, and good posture. Ask your child to stand with both feet firmly on the floor slightly apart. Your child can bend their knees slightly to push down with their feet and toes to really feel the floor and how it is supporting them. Then ask them to lift their chest and look in front of them – this should elongate their back and their shoulders will go back. Ask them to relax their shoulders in this position. Then invite them to turn the palms of their hands to the front so they are giving energy out to the world but also receiving energy – if you are facing them, it’s a lovely idea to give them some energy back. Then stand completely still in this pose and ask them to listen to their breathing, or noises around them, reminding your child that mountains never move – even in the wind, rain, sun, or snow. Ask your child to gently close their eyes and count to 10 without moving. Children automatically want to stay still after this pose has been released.
The best part of the class is relaxation time (savasana) at the end. I’m often surprised how eagerly the kids snuggle down on their mats under their blankets or sarongs and, after the initial wiggles, listen quietly to my guided mini-meditation. I encourage the children for just a few minutes to “enjoy being you”. They are often so relaxed physically and emotionally that they are reluctant to sit up at the end. Parents often join in the relaxation exercises, and when they’re at home the whole family can create some calm of their own. The phrases I use are repetitive, memorable, and mostly rhythming – my hope is that these tools will last a lifetime.
Practicing yoga outside is the best way, and Gozo is perfect for this with its beautiful rural and coastal environment – nature’s wonderland. There are many wonderful yoga teachers, yoga classes, and yoga retreats on Gozo. To be on your mat looking at the sea and feeling the sun, or the breeze on your skin gives a unique appreciation for how we fit into nature. You don’t even need a yoga mat. It’s never too early or too late to incorporate yoga into your life. Kids need yoga just as much as we do so check out my classes here.
Sarah Wood has lived on Gozo for about 8 years and runs kids yoga classes for ages 3-8 all year round. She also records kids yoga classes online. In the summer Sarah additionally teaches scuba diving and swimming. Find Kids Calm Yoga Gozo on Facebook and contact Sarah via Messenger.