Regardless of your age or ability, yoga can be a powerful way to align the body and mind. As well as improving balance, strength and endurance, research has also proven that practising yoga can boost children’s self-esteem, sharpen their focus, reduce anxiety and improve their behaviour in the classroom.
Pupils in our Prep classes are invited to take part in our daily yoga and mindfulness sessions, but this is something which can be practiced outside of school too – whether indoors or outdoors; alone or with family and friends. It’s always so much fun for the children, and as you may remember, some of them even asked to deliver helpful yoga cards to children in their local neighbourhood during the height of lockdown.
We wanted to share a few of our favourite yoga poses with you too, and some of the benefits that they can bring to people of all ages.
In Sanskrit, the name of this pose is ‘Trikonasana’, which directly translates to ‘triangle pose’ in English – and you may be able to see why! It’s a brilliant stretch for the waist and sides of the body, which can often be forgotten about. It requires a little balance too, keeping young minds fully focused on the task at hand. Start by moving your feet a little further apart and lifting your arms parallel to the ground. Then, tilt sideways until one hand touches your shin.
Meerkat (Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana)
This is a fun, energising pose often referred to as ‘Upward-Facing Dog’ – but we think it looks like a cheeky meerkat on the lookout for predators! Begin by lying face-down on the floor, with your hands underneath your shoulders. Then, straighten your arms and look up to the sky. You should feel a gentle stretch in your arms, wrists and spine. Over time, practising this will help to improve your child’s posture and alignment.
Also known as ‘Dancer Pose’, this is a position that engages, stretches and strengthens the whole body. Stand up tall, shift your weight to one leg and take hold of the other one behind you. Very slowly, lean forwards and reach the opposite arm out in front of you. It can be tricky to find your balance, but encourage your child to keep persevering! It’s a great way to develop better stability and coordination.
For a quick energy boost, Ustrasana, sometimes referred to as ‘Camel Pose’ is ideal. Start by kneeling on the ground, with your knees hip-width distance apart, and then raise your body so that your torso and thighs are perpendicular to the floor. Slowly lean back, reaching your arms towards your feet and letting your neck gently fall back too. This can be an empowering, confidence-boosting pose, as it takes an element of courage to lean back and completely let go.
Mindful (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Perhaps the most widely recognised yoga pose of all, Downward-Facing Dog (or a ‘Mindful’ position, as we like to call it) is a brilliant way to relieve stress or tension and encourage a racing mind to slow down. It’s also a useful way to help an overexcited child let off some steam, while helping them to settle down at the same time. With your hands and feet on the floor, create a ‘V’ shape with your body by raising your hips high in the air.
If you can, try to hold to hold each pose for 30 seconds, then repeat it on the other side of your body. Remember to take breaks when necessary, and to never force your body into a position that’s uncomfortable. Taking deep, controlled breaths will help your child to improve their stability and concentration by bringing their awareness back to their own body, rather than the distractions around them.
With so many benefits for both your physical and mental health, yoga can be an incredibly useful tool to help us look after our wellbeing. Why not try getting the whole family involved and give some of these poses a go together?