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Sw.Vishnu_BlogWe all want our children to grow up happy and healthy. Unfortunately childhood obesity, attention deficit, hyperactivity and anxiety disorders are all on the rise in North America.

Imagine the typical kind of day many children have –

Pre-dawn wakeup calls, 6-hour school days, after-school clubs and a litany of activities.  Last minute dinners are followed by sleepy homework sessions and late bedtimes. This exhausting process is repeated over and over, day after day. While this goal-oriented, forward looking lifestyle certainly has some benefits, there are negative effects as well – unprecedented rates of stress, bullying, school violence, and depression.

Yoga improves self-esteem, teaches body awareness, helps develop strength and cultivates creativity especially at a time when children are getting in touch with their bodies. It helps create the coping skills needed in their fast paced lives. Young girls who practice yoga learn to feel better about themselves and learn to have a healthy image of beauty and strength unlike the messages the media and their peers may be sending them.

While the purpose of yoga is to create a mind-body experience, there are many physical benefits. The poses help to improve balance, strength, posture and flexibility. Holding poses helps to build muscles. Muscles are necessary for strength in everyday kid activities and for a healthy metabolism. Balance is necessary for all kids to keep them safe from falls. Yoga also helps to increase flexibility and range of motion of the joints. Movement expends energy and burns calories, which can help children to control their weight or even lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. Through yoga, kids learn some tools necessary for maintaining a healthy weight during adulthood.

Children today tend to spend an inordinate amount of time slouched at their computers, video games, television and on cell phones, forgetting healthy ways of moving and breathing. They also face increasing pressures in school to perform and fit in. The wonderful aspects of a yoga practice include non-competition, focus, concentration, breathing, balance and poise – all the perfect antidote for our stressed out youth.

Yoga adapted for children also inspires their imaginations to learn about nature and their environment, practice good listening skills, peer group cooperation and powers of observation.

A number of studies have also indicated that many special needs kids (Autism, ADD/ADHD, and Down’s syndrome) gain valuable coping and concentration skills through the practice of yoga. With emphasis placed  on correct breathing and posture both modalities can help hyperactive kids become calm and focused; while dull and sluggish states of mind can be transformed into vibrant alertness.

Of the eight limbs of yoga, Yama, Niyama and Asana are truly relevant for children.  The principles of Yama and Niyama reinforce universal values such as Truth, non-violence, cleanliness and contentment and asanas (poses) help a growing child develop physically, emotionally and psychologically.  In this way Yoga is a necessary complement to formal education.  By practicing this wonderful science children can blossom into healthy, well balanced men and women with strong bodies, clear minds and pure hearts.

By Sita Miriam Zernis – Sivananda Yoga Teacher, Certified Holistic Health Counselor & Health and Wellness Writer.

Visit our international website www.sivananda.org to find out which Ashrams and Centres offer Yoga programmes for Children!