Some of you might be wondering why you should get your children involved in Yoga while there are so many other things to do. There are a lot of misconceptions about Yoga, so I decided to have a Q & A session with Yael Calhoun, co-founder and executive director of Green Tree Yoga to answer some of your questions.
Is Yoga a religion? No. Yoga is an art and a science that has been practiced for thousands of years. Yoga, which means yoking or union uses the breath to join the body and the mind. That’s why we talk about the breath while we do the poses and why we move with the breath. It helps us to relax into our pose, to deepen our stretch and to connect with our mind and body.
How is Kid Yoga different from Adult Yoga? Yoga for kids is both very different and very much the same as yoga for adults. It is different in that yoga for kids needs to be highly interactive and much faster paced. The instructor needs to be chatting with and eliciting comments from the kids all the time to keep them engaged. While kids love this, adults would find it annoying and distracting. Kids’ and adult yoga are very much the same in intention — that is to say, the intention of yoga is to find calmness and clarity. Kids need this as much as adults. The benefits of yoga are the same for any population — relaxation, healing, strengthening, and concentration for the mind and the body.
What should kids be able to take away from doing Yoga? Kids should take away a sense of fun, a sense of calm, and a sense of being energized. Yoga does all of that. Kids should take away a new tool to deal with stress and to add to their exercise program.
What results should parents expect? Parents should expect kids to connect with yoga. Kids will say, even after one class, I really like yoga. They may not be able to articulate the reasons, and many adults can’t either, and that is fine. The important thing is that they feel better after doing some yoga, and they want to do more. It’s fun, it’s healthy, and it can become habit forming!
Why is Kid Yoga beneficial? Yoga for kids is beneficial for the same reasons yoga for adults is — it’s a powerful healing tool. But, as Dr. Timothy McCall says in his wonderful book, Yoga as Medicine, yoga is slow medicine. That is to say, it feels good right away, and the benefits build over time.
How often should kids do Yoga? As often as they can! But once a week would be enough for the kids to feel the benefits of yoga. The important thing is to introduce them to the tool.
What if my kids go to a class and do not like it? Just as with any teacher, there are many different styles and personalities. I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t like yoga. So I would say, try another teacher — another setting, another group. There are some fun dvds and books on yoga for kids, sometimes that can be a nice complement to a weekly practice.
How could I help get yoga into my school? Given that yoga is not a religion, it’s a science for using the breath to connect the mind and the body, many schools are open to introducing both their students and staff to the benefits of yoga. If you do yoga, offer to do some 5 minute yoga breaks in the classrooms. It’s a great way to improve the academic settings. (go to www.greentreeyoga.org for some ideas on this). If you have some yoga moms or dads in your school (and you can put a notice in your school newsletter), it may be possible to start an afterschool yoga program, either for small fee to pay the teacher or with no fee because someone volunteers. I have found the best way to set it up is as a 6-8 week program for which kids sign up (even if they dont’ pay). You need to get it on the parents’ calendar, and then the kids attend. You may be able to get yoga mats donated, but you can do a lot of yoga without mats, just using beach towels for the sitting poses.
Please let me know if you have any other questions and Yael will be happy to answer them! I hope this gave you some insight of why this has been an important week for me! Now, stay tuned for the Green Tree Giveaway!