It is common knowledge that yoga is great for adults. And millions around the world pursue this practice regularly. But is yoga only for adults? No! Yoga practice should ideally begin at an early age, so kids can grow into a well-rounded individual and not come to yoga to fix issues with their body and mind later in life. I often wonder why we wait so long to begin.
Yoga is a gift to humanity, and should be started early in life so the practitioner can reap the lifelong benefits of this ancient practice. There are some very important advantages to starting yoga when you are young. The magical age is 8.
It is common knowledge that adults combat stress in many forms every day. But today’s children are as stressed as adults. They have to keep up with the growing competition in schools and colleges, deal with peer pressure and the difficult stage of puberty, stay involved in extracurricular activities and meet their parents and teachers’ expectations. For a kid, this is a lot to handle.
We should all know about the benefits of yoga for children. The practice has a huge effect on the body and the systems that support it, like the nervous, respiratory and digestive systems. Yoga influences children’s emotions and behavior; it has a positive effect on the mental state and aids creativity.
Just like you prep the soil before you sow the seeds, one needs to prepare the mind. The mind assumes many stages. While many believe that kids can be difficult to influence, some are actually very receptive. Yoga can help transform the ‘quality of consciousness.’ The quality of consciousness is good when one is aware and receptive and not so good if you find yourself lost in your own thoughts, unable to focus, absorb or retain information or have a poor memory.
At what age should kids start yoga? In India, children traditionally have their thread ceremony (upanayanam) — their initiation into religious practices — at age 8. At this age, children are introduced to sun salutations, nadi shodhana pranayama and the gayatri mantra. This age represents the end of childhood. Even modern scientists recognize that this is a crucial milestone for physiological and psychological development of children transitioning into adult life. Some of the evidence that supports this is:
- The number of air sacs in the lungs stabilize at age 8. After age 8, they only grow in size and not in number. This is considered to be the ideal time to introduce pranayama into a child’s daily routine. This will help the cardiovascular and respiratory systems maintain high levels of resistance and endurance.
- The health of the immune system is established by age 8. The sun salutations and nadi shodhana pranayama ensure continual development of the immune responses throughout life.
- The pineal gland is responsible for the maintenance of the child’s expanded state of awareness. Children who practice yoga in their 8th year experience a delay in puberty, thereby staying a child for a little while longer. This delay will help the child be ready to cope with the physiological, psychological and emotional onslaught of puberty. Children who hit puberty a little later are also found to be more intuitive, sensitive and and intelligent adults than those who hit puberty quickly.
- Psychologists believe that kids’ ability to understand concepts and ideas which form the basis of ongoing technical and moral education begins at age 8. Before this, fantasy and play are dominant in the child’s life.
- Spiritual development begins at this age. This is a great time to initiate children into karma yoga – where they begin to help with small household tasks, earn some responsibility, learn morals and are held accountable. This will help them develop their own spiritual journey.
Children can definitely grow and flourish with yoga. I don’t mean we should become obsessed with our children doing yoga and start before they can even walk. However, when the age is right, I encourage you to find a teacher who can help make yoga a part of your child’s life. It is an empowering gift to give a child. Swami Satyananda Saraswati has said: “The destiny of the whole world depends on little children. If you want to see the silver lining on the horizon it is not you and me, but children who have to be spiritualized.”
[Photo by Jaybird – CC BY]
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