Yoga and Meditation While Kidding Around
In our stress-filled world, it has become increasingly common for children to be affected, even here in the paradise of Costa Rica. Stressors for kids can include school, difficult people or any situation lasting long enough to be perceived as stressful.
Yoga and meditation have proven effective tools to help reduce stress in adults and kids alike. By lowering levels of cortisol in the body — the so-called stress hormone that functions as nature’s built-in alarm system — yoga encourages relaxation. The impact is felt in the body as well as the mind, improving balance, strength and flexibility. Scientists have found that meditation lowers blood pressure and helps improve other physical functions.
In her book “Sensational Meditation for Children,” Sarah Wood Vallely explores the many advantages of teaching children to meditate. Some children told her that meditation helps them prepare for tests and sport events, or it improves their relationships with their parents, friends and siblings. Others said they like meditation because “it makes them feel good when they are sad.”
Teachers who build meditation into their lesson plans report favorable outcomes that include a more peaceful classroom environment. Their students have demonstrated reduced test anxiety, more positive peer relationships and enhanced anger management skills.
Meditation is a big word and mature concept. It might seem like a difficult fit with the superactive world of children, but not when we consider the depths of their incredible imaginations. For those daring to take that journey, meditation is just a blink of an eye away. Ideally, it occurs in a space filled with music and games that guide kids through yoga philosophy, poses, mindfulness and relaxation. This helps them explore and connect to the inner and peaceful space we all have inside.
A kids yoga class may last from 20 minutes to one hour, depending on the context and age of group members. The class outline will always include an initial mantra meditation, followed by sun salutations, song or activity, asana practice, and final relaxation. Even 20 minutes is long enough to help kids relax and navigate their inner space and imagination, while opening themselves to practices of peace and love.
In my experience, most kids love to do yoga and meditate; it is very natural and intuitive to them. Children are happy and open to trying breathing exercises, mantras and meditation. They can be enthusiastic and active while challenging their bodies, with asanas providing a learning balance.
“Peace begins with me” is the mantra for so-called “kidding around” yoga. It promotes understanding of the most important aspect: giving kids the resources to calm down, control frustration and live peacefully while growing up to fully develop their own personal yoga and meditation practice.