Yoga for children? Hema Vijay says it helps prevent the numerous health problems they encounter all through those growing up years

How many children these days can sit without slouching for more than 20 minutes? How many are free of colds and coughs even when the weather gets torrid? How many children have supple and flexible bodies? And how many are full of positive energy and are able to remain peaceful right through the day? Well, most of our kids wouldn’t be able to boast of all these qualities. There are many reasons for this: there is not much of physical activity in school or after school; kids remain glued to their chairs most of the day; there is stress caused by the need to perform and score; and very little time or encouragement to simply stop and stare.

Ray of hope

Yoga offers a ray of hope in this scenario, enhancing a child’s health holistically. The practice of yoga improves breathing and lung capacity, is beneficial for the spine and posture, and the internal organs and body systems. It also improves a child’s confidence, self-awareness and self-control. “Growing children need yoga to strengthen their spine and ensure correct posture, which would pre-empt several muscular, systemic and orthopaedic problems. If a child’s posture is cramped, it affects his growth and the functioning of various organs,” says C. Annamalai, yoga teacher, whose book New Life through Yoga for Students is to be published soon.

Getting kids habituated to regular yoga practice builds for them a lifetime of positive health and harmony. What’s more, fitness becomes a way of life. “Today, young and older adults take to yoga to solve inherent or lifestyle-induced ailments. Those health problems might never have set in, had they been practising yoga from childhood,” says yoga teacher and therapist K. Geetha, director, Y Way Yoga Margam. Even the few kids who do have the joy of a daily session of sports need yoga, because unlike sports, yoga works on the entire body. While activities such as swimming work out the entire body, yoga impacts the child on all levels — physical, physiological and psychological.

Different schools of yoga cite different ages for initiation, ranging from 7 to 11, but all conclude that pre-teens certainly need yoga. Children should be taught yoga when they are able to follow instructions about the various asanas/breathing exercises. But make sure that they learn from a well-trained teacher.

Group sessions

Group classes are ideal for kids, as doing yoga in isolation could be monotonous. “We club children in the age groups 6-12 and 13-16. But in case of yoga therapy to address specific health problems, classes on an individual basis are required,” says A.F. Lara Abiesheikh, director, Viniyoga Healing Foundation of India, which conducts weekend yoga classes for kids. Here, yoga is made fun.

For instance, when Veerabhadrasana is taught, examples of warriors (the word ‘veera’ refers to warrior) of immense strength, kindle interest. For kids, among other asanas, yoga experts recommend those involving arching of the back such as veerabhadrasana, ardha-utkatasana, suryanamaskar, etc. Asanas that involve inhalation-exhalation that strengthen the lungs are recommended too.

Older kids may be taught breathing exercises such as pranayama in addition to other asanas. While a daily session of yoga is ideal to derive maximum health benefit, given time and practical difficulties, a weekly session could be considered. “Parents should realise that positive physical health will improve academic performance,” says Abiesheikh.