It is alarming but 1 in every 3 children in the United States of America is overweight or obese. That is a tragic statistic that can and must be changed. It is true that for heavy kids, they tend to shy away from rigorous forms of physical activity and are not comfortable in team sport and playground games. An excellent alternative to introduce these children to a healthy lifestyle is yoga for children. Yoga offers immediate impact from the very first class and is one of the only forms of fitness that strengthens the mind and the body.
Yoga is a Gentle, Non Judgmental Experience for Children
Yoga studios are very popular today and is a commonplace form of everyday fitness and exercise for adults all across North America. Many are now offering “mom and me” or “mommy and baby” classes, which really focus on the new mother’s health and getting back in shape following a pregnancy. In most cases, the baby is not involved in the yoga class.
However, there are progressive yoga studios that are offering Saturday and evening classes for children. One of the beauties of these classes, is that the yoga instructors make the class fun, while teaching yoga poses, proper breathing, self-confidence as well as important mental health fitness such as inner peace, balance and self acceptance. These are all exceptional teachings that any child can carry with them for a lifetime. For an overweight child who seeks an open and friendly atmosphere, there is no better place than yoga for children.
One company, Storytime Yoga, is making leaps and bounds in how they introduce children to the wonderful world of Yoga -a gift that can serve each kiddie student well now and for the rest of their lives. This is a great starting point for yoga teachers or concerned parents that want to bring a children’s yoga program to their community.
Getting Kids Started with Yoga
Oftentimes with children, anything unknown or foreign can be scary and this may be the case with yoga. Call a local yoga studio and find out first if they have specific classes for children. If so, make a point of going to the studio as a visitor only, to watch all or part of a kids yoga class. Once it is seen that everyone in the class are doing weird and interesting poses (that will cause a few giggles), wearing comfortable loose fitting clothing and are having fun learning the art of yoga, it may be hard to keep a child away.
Here are a few more tips for getting a child to love yoga:
Always allow the child to ease into a new activity, even yoga, at their own pace. If they feel safe and comfortable, they will be more inclined to stay long term.
Let the child shop for their own yoga mat – there are so many great colors and patterns available, it will give the child ownership of the process.
Use the time leading up to class and after class to work on proper eating habits and relaxation techniques to eventually lead the obese child to a life of health and happiness.
Enjoy the experience without judgement, pressure or stress – that goes for the child and the parents.
Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Toddlers
How many times have you seen a child curl into Child’s Pose? Or goof off by hanging upside down on the sofa (a nonchalant inversion). Parents who practice yoga understand that while children are naturally exploring their bodies and ranges of motion, they often instinctively choose positions we would refer to as yoga poses.
Yogis also know that much of yoga is play, and that many of the poses leave room for silliness, joy, and giggling. Why not include toddlers and preschoolers in all the fun?
Itsy Bitsy Yoga offers to infants and tots many of the same benefits that YogaKids or Yoga Calm for Children provides for the school-age set:
Regular exercise to teach healthy fitness habits, burn off excess energy, and sleep better
Breathing tools to release frustration, as well as relaxation poses and exercises for self-soothing and calming
Progression and positive reinforcement to increase self-esteem, strength, motor skills, and balance
Valuable adult-child bonding and interaction for social and emotional skill enhancement
For stressed and exhausted parents, this translates into benefits for them, as well:
“Magic Poses” for babies, and “Super-Duper” poses for Toddlers give parents simple tricks to quell temper tantrums before they even begin.
Quiet, relaxing poses help parents with transitioning toddlers into nap-time and bed-time
Other suggested uses for poses include bath-time, getting dressed, being patient in public, and motivating cantankerous tots to move with parents from one room to another without a fuss
“Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Toddlers and Preschoolers” is focused on an audience of frazzled parents who aren’t interested in who the author is, or her qualifications. Though the text states that Garabedian has studied children’s anatomy and movements with pediatricians and pediatric physical therapists, a quizzical yogi might wonder what studies she’s citing, and wonder where the bibliography is for this handy little book.
On her website, author Helen Garabedian lists her qualifications as a Certified Hatha Yoga Teacher, Certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator, USUI Reiki Master, IAIM Certified Infant Massage Instructor, Certified Pregnancy Yoga Teacher and Level One Brain Gym graduate.
An impressive list of titles, to be sure, but most of them are obscure niche certifications that are hard to prove or disprove. Garabedian is not a Registered Yoga Teacher in the Yoga Alliance database, though it is true she may have been certified by any number of schools or associations.
A scientifically-minded skeptic may see red flags when Garabedian mentions her “innate ability” to understand children, rather than bonafide training or expertise. “For as long as I can remember, I have been blessed with the gift of looking at a baby and clearly knowing what he/she needs, or is trying to express in that moment,” says Helen Garabedian on her website. However, most yogis are open to understanding these kinds of gifts, and are willing to “go with the flow”, so to speak.
With her first book, the author received national attention in publications from Newsweek to Yoga Journal. In an interview with Garabedian on the Boston Fox News channel, Garabedian is well-spoken and informed. The kids and parents in the class certainly look like they are having a great time.
In a nutshell:
The movements and games are fun. They probably do help with taming tantrums and helping children sleep better, and providing all of the benefits of a regular yoga practice.
In spite of lack of scientific or intellectual evidence, the routines certainly aren’t going to harm a child. At worst, they give the parents something light-hearted and creative to do with their toddlers. The value of the quality attention and interaction alone is undeniable.
The book is well-organized and easy to follow, with some fascinating tidbits about the way toddlers assimilate and process information. Garabedian offers short, flexible routines and logical teaching instructions.
If you want to try something new with your toddler or preschooler it’s a fun new way to sing, giggle and play with yoga.
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