Children are being brought up in a world of noise and busyness. Busy parents, school pressures, additional after school activities, computer games and fast moving TV can all add to their stress levels. School tests, falling out with friends, arguments between parents, feeling overwhelmed by homework and being bullied or teased can add to the stress as they learns how to deal with the outside world. (EDITOR: Or as they don't learn to cope with it?)
These stresses can cause a range of physical disorders like sleep problems, irritability; stomach aches bed wetting, headaches, muscular pains as well as mental and emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, nervousness, anger and temper tantrums.
Yoga is a wonderful activity that can help counter these pressures. When children learn simple techniques for self-health, relaxation, and inner fulfilment, they can navigate life's challenges with a little more ease. Learning yoga from an early age encourages body awareness and appreciation of their surroundings. Physically, it enhances flexibility, strength and coordination as well as aids concentration and sense of calmness.
The beauty of yoga is that children of all shapes, sizes, abilities and ages can benefit from the exercises. Children can stretch as much as as comfortable as they learn that every body is different. Most of the poses have animal names and shapes which can capture the imagination of even the youngest of children. They can imitate the movement and sounds of the animals and imagine the qualities of that animal. For example when they adopt the lion pose, they can feel strong and courageous, while in the tortoise poise, feel quiet and still inside their mind as well as their body.
More and more schools are adopting yoga at this time. A recent government study reported by the Telegraph found that fewer school children are participating in school sports and are signing up for more "fun" non-competitive alternatives like circus skills (juggling) and yoga.
Yoga is a great form of exercise for mind, body and mental health and so a wonderful way for children to stay fit and healthy throughout their lives.
Relaxation is also vital for children's health and well being. Just a few minutes a day can help young children feel calm and focussed and ready to face their day. Relaxation can help children sleep as it decreases muscle tension, slows the rate of breathing and reduces blood pressure. It can also help children's concentration and listening skills as they feel quiet and able to listen and assimilate information, so giving them better problem-solving abilities.
Creativity and imagination is also improved as children are encouraged to take their minds away from their current situations and take themselves on imaginary journeys in their minds. Children develop self-esteem and a feeling of self worth as they start to see their strengths and qualities in the quiet.
Here are the most common types of relaxation techniques.
Children can lie on their back and put their hands on their stomachs. As they breathe in, their tummy will rise and as they breathe out, it will fall. Children concentrate on breathing in and out slowly as they focus on the rise and fall of their tummy. This can help children let go and feel calm and quiet.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation:
Children can lie on their backs on in a comfortable chair. Starting at the feet, they squeeze and relax each limb. As they move up through the body slowly, they will feel calm and relaxed.
Children close their eyes and imagine they are floating on a cloud or lying on a boat and floating down the river. They might imagine that they are lying in warm sunshine and feeling the warmth in their body or imagine that they are sinking gently into soft sand.
Children can repeat the words "I am calm and quiet, I am calm and quiet' and slowly as they repeat, they feel more calm and quiet and relaxed.
Marneta Viegas is founder of Relax Kids and has written 2 books of children's visualisations and produced a range of children's relaxation CDs for concentration, anger management, anxiety and worry, self-esteem and bedtime. For more information visit www.relaxkids.com.