By Shana Meyerson
Go into any Los Angeles schoolroom today and chances are that many children will know what a downward dog is, will be able to demonstrate a cobra, and will even get into a balancing tree. No doubt about it, the kids’ yoga phenomenon is enormous (and growing!) for good reason. Yoga challenges both boys and girls, while simultaneously helping them to relax, focus, and balance their lives in an ever-more complicated and stressful world.
Yoga is a distinctly non-competitive activity that doesn’t subject children to the pressures of performance or perfection. In yoga, trying is doing. There’s no such thing as right or wrong.
Children love to compete. And, certainly, a child can learn a lot from the process of competing, but they get plenty of competition in their everyday lives. Whether it’s in school or sports, with siblings or friends, children are surrounded by competition. And that’s an incredible amount of pressure…especially for kids who are either used to losing or expected to win.
In yoga, however, every child is perfect. We play games without winners or losers, and emphasize that the only perfect way to do a pose is exactly how a child doing it. As long as s/he is trying, s/he’s doing it just right. The integrity is in the effort.
After all, children’s yoga is never about technical perfection. Its real purpose is simply to introduce kids to-and familiarize them with-the basic concepts of the practice. Teaching them to try, breathe, relax, balance, and be good to each other is more important than getting a 90 degree bend in Warrior.
And while yoga is perhaps best known for its ability to transform a person into a pretzel, much more amazing is its ability to transform a person into a human being. Of course, yoga is designed to stimulate every muscle and joint in a child’s body, as well as all of the vital internal systems, such as the nervous, digestive, and circulatory systems. But the practice isn’t just physical; it’s mental and spiritual (not religious), as well. It is nonviolent and it teaches kindness to, and acceptance of, both yourself and the world around you.
The flexibility we practice in yoga is mental and spiritual. Physical flexibility is but a byproduct. The balance we cultivate is mental and spiritual. Physical balance is but a vehicle. The strength we build is mental and spiritual. Physical strength is but a consequence of our actions. Sure, yoga will help children with weight loss and physical agility, but much more importantly it will give them self-confidence, focus, and awareness. Tools for life. Tools for love. And tools for happiness.
There’s a reason why we call it yoga practice: because there is no way to do yoga. We can only practice. Yoga is a way of life. It is peace, acceptance, and gratitude. What we practice in the studio, we carry over into our lives outside of the studio. Unlike other activities that involve championships, performances, and competitions, in yoga, there is no grand finale. It’s all just a journey and we are starting our kids out on their first baby steps.
Shana Meyerson is the Founder of mini yogis® yoga for kids. To find more about the program, visit www.miniyogis.com.