A 2009 Stress in America survey administered by the American Psychological Association says stress levels among children are a lot higher than they were a year ago.
Vivian Manning-Schaffel: Candace Morano, a certified yoga teacher and educational kinesiologist who has extensive experience working with both adults and children, says yoga can be a great tension tamer for kids of all ages.
"Today's children are dealing with major issues -- from obesity to everyday stresses such as homework, sports, and after-school activities," says Morano. "Studies have even shown that the current economy is not only stressing out adults, but kids are also affected by the recession. Of course, it's not that kids are worried about Wall Street or foreclosures -- they're just soaking up the tension around them. All this stress and worry can overwhelm little minds and bodies."
Morano says that through practicing a kid-friendly rendition of yoga, kids can reap all the same physical, emotional, and mental benefits their parents do, not to mention enjoy improved flexibility, motor skills, and coordination. "Sporty kids can improve their performance. Not-so-sporty children can find a flexibility they didn't know they had. Yoga also has great benefits for children with special needs. It can help them to calm down, feel better, and sleep better," says Morano.
Um, who doesn't want their kid to sleep better? If that isn't impressive enough, Morano even says yoga can help children learn better.
"As we engage in specific movements, our bodies send messages through our nerves connecting to our brain, providing a clearer and more open flow of knowledge, breaking down barriers put up by stress," says Morano.
Eager to get your kid started? Morano recommends kicking off your kids' inner yogi with these fun, easy yoga poses:
Rest your palms on your thighs with thumb and first finger together. Close your eyes and begin to breathe deeply through your nose. With your eyes closed, picture any thoughts that arise as if they were like clouds passing in the sky. Now bring your attention back to your breath and imagine it moving throughout your body. Imagine it is your favorite color and watch the color spread to every part of your body as you breathe deeper each time. Breathe really slowly in and out of your mouth, as if through a straw.
|Cat's stretch pose: |
Start on hands and knees. Imagine you are a curious kitty. You round your spine, drawing chin into chest, and feel your back full of space as you reach it to the sky. Next, arch your spine, letting your heart open as you bring your head and tail closer together. Feel your lower back sink toward the floor. Feel your chest widen as you breathe deeply. Flow between rounding and arching with ten in and out breaths. Smile at someone and notice how your body relaxes and your mental outlook shifts.
|Tree pose: |
Feel your feet and legs root into the earth. Feel your spine rise tall from your feet. Take one foot off the floor and make your tree branch as you place that foot onto your standing leg, gazing ahead on one fixed point. Bring your hands into prayer position at the midline of your body and breathe from your center outward. Hold for five to seven breaths and bring your foot down and prepare for the other side. Think of someone you love and send them a loving message. See the joy on their face as your prayer or blessing arrives.
|Superman's pose: |
Lie on your belly and breathe your belly into the floor. Draw your belly in and feel it become firm. As you breathe in, raise one leg and the opposite arm off the floor. Exhale and lower; switch sides. Now, after repeating on the opposite side, lift both legs off the floor at the same time while keeping your belly firm and use your arms and chest as you press them into the floor to help lift your legs higher. As you continue breathing in and out, lift arms, head, chest, and legs off the floor as you feel your hip bones press down and keep belly firm. Give your breath a color. Envision and feel your breath moving down to your toes and back up through your body again.
|Mouse pose: |
Begin by kneeling with big toes touching, heels apart. Let your knees widen apart to create more space for your belly. As you breathe in, stretch your hips to your heels and bring your hands to the floor. Exhale as you move your hands out away from your hips until you can rest your head down with your arms alongside or stretched out in front of your body. Think, "I fully embrace and accept the beauty and challenges this day brings."
|Vivian Manning-Schaffel has written for Babble, Parenting, The Advocate, The New York Post, Business Week and a variety of other publications and lives and works in the heart of breeder Brooklyn with her husband and two kids. She authors two pop culture blogs: The Mad Mom and A Hag Supreme, and is on the web at vivianmanningschaffel.com.|