Yoga has given us the tools to help us live in harmony with ourselves and others. If children can learn to use these tools, and apply them to their own lives, then the world will become a brighter and more peaceful place.
Author and yoga instructor Mark Singleton adapts more than 40 yoga positions to make them safe, effective and fun for children. His experience in education and holistic learning taught him the potential of yoga for children.
‘Before I discovered yoga, I had a long interest in education and holistic learning. I taught literature to children in France and the UK, and studied alternative approaches to education. What I discovered was that school children were mostly treated as a head, shoulders, brain, and a hand to write with; the rest of them remained hidden behind a desk and a curriculum. When I began to practise yoga I glimpsed a way to help children become body, heart and mind (and all their other aspects) at the same time.’
Yoga For You and Your Child is practical, safe and fun and it shows how to make yoga sessions exciting, interactive and child-friendly by playing yoga games, breathing and meditation exercises, going on ‘yoga adventures’ and imitating animal shapes, walks and noises.
In yoga there are no rewards and no punishments, no winners and no losers, no best and no worst. The reward of yoga comes simply from the practice itself. Children love this kind of approach. When they realise that they don’t have to compete or perform they start to feel free to express themselves without fear of judgment or criticism. This freedom helps children to develop a sense of confidence and self-esteem that stays with them into adulthood.
The following postures are to warm up your body and loosen your limbs and joints before your main yoga session. You can also treat the postures as a yoga practice in their own right.
You can practise the lying and standing postures individually or as a continuous sequence. As you get used to doing the postures with your child, you’ll find that you are able to choose exactly the right poses to match your mood and energy levels.
This is a twisting posture that tones your waist, hips and back and is exceptionally good for your spine. It also massages your abdominal organs and improves your circulation. And if you’re feeling tired, Helicopter stimulates you and wakes you up.
1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart or slightly wider. Stretch your arms out to the sides, palms facing down.
2. Twist to your left, taking your left hand around to the back of your right hip, your right arm around the front of your body and your right hand to your left shoulder. Look behind you. Breathe in and twist back to the centre with your arms stretched out to the sides. Now repeat the twist in the same way on the right side. Then breathe in and twist back to the centre with your arms out to the sides. Keep doing this twist and, once you’ve got the hang of it, start to move faster, letting your hands and arms hang loose like rags so that they swing into the position. Keep your hips still, so that the twist stays in your spine and doesn’t move down into your knees.
When you are moving quickly, let go of your breath and allow the movement to breathe for you.
This posture is great for releasing tension and loosening up after a long day of sitting at an office or a school desk. The “ha” breath releases the stress and anxiety that we tend to carry around in the diaphragm and abdomen. It also cleanses your lungs and helps you to breathe better.
1. Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart and your arms relaxed by your sides.
As you breathe in, raise your arms above your head and stretch up as high as you can.
2. Breathe out as you let yourself slowly flop forward from the waist like a puppet whose strings have been cut. Keep your knees slightly bent to take the strain off your lower back and make a ‘haaaa!’ sound as you go. Now let your arms dangle and relax your upper body and head. Rest quietly in this position, listening to your breathing. Slowly curl yourself back up to standing, keeping your arms relaxed. Bring your head up last. Do this movement several times.
Yoga for You and Your Child
£12.99, Available from Watkins Publishing