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Children with anxiety can benefit tremendously from yoga, but it also tends to be a very frustrating and challenging practice for them.
First off, when a child has anxiety, s/he usually has a tendency to rush into things without thinking. Basically, the opposite of what yoga asks us to do. Slowing down and being patient can be a huge challenge to these children…but it is also an extraordinarily valuable skill.
Problem is, when a child rushes into a pose, s/he often falls right out of it…which makes him or her frustrated…which builds anxiety…exactly the cycle we are trying to break. So what do you do?
First of all, stick with easier poses, but don’t avoid challenge all together. Tree is a perfect pose to work on, as it requires focus and balance, but it’s also easy to catch yourself when you fall out of it.
Second, emphasize perseverance. This is very important. The child may get very worked up–s/he may even cry–but it’s essential that s/he learn how to break through barriers rather than run away from them. Hold your student’s hands (literally, or figuratively) and make sure s/he knows s/he does not have to be perfect…s/he just has to keep trying.
Oftentimes, childhood anxiety stems from some sort of trauma that seeps into all aspects of their lives and makes them feel inferior or under attack. Make sure they know that you are on their team, you are there to help and support them, and as long as they try they are perfect. Praise, praise, praise. The more comfortable they are with you and their surroundings, the more they will begin to crack those shells that have been containing them for so long.
Of course, though this process is particularly therapeutic for children who suffer from anxiety, it is also very important for all children to learn and benefit from.
And that’s the mini yogis minute tip of the week. Check back every week to learn something new!
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