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5

Asanas To Include In Every Child’s Yoga Class

The top 5 asanas to include in every kids yoga class

 

 

By Veronica Greene (Printed in Om Yoga Magazine AUG 2017)

Veronica Greene founded Little Greene Yoga® and offers a Certified Children’s Teacher Training package (for 3-5yrs; 5-8yrs; 8-12yrs & Teens) www.LittleGreeneYoga.com

 

15 years ago when I founded Little Greene Yoga I would notice a dramatic change in a child’s posture once they started secondary school. This change was down to a number of reasons – carrying extra books, studying, hunched over a desk or the simple awkwardness of adolescence! This posture adaptation is known as ‘forward head syndrome’.

About 5 years ago I started to see this same postural imbalance happening among my 8-12 year olds. This coincided with the availability of various affordable electronic tablets. These devices are now part of everyday life, unfortunately so is this posture, now often referred to as ‘text head’.

Children’s spines and bodies are now developing problems that can be avoided – their abs (stomach) and pecs (chest) are now in a permanent shortened position; sternocleidomastoid (neck) is shortening; the scapulae (shoulder blades) flare out to the side and the muscles of their upper back are weak and over stretched. This not only causes pain but limits the movement of the diaphragm and the functioning of their lungs.

The following 5 asanas, should be included in every child’s yoga class to counteract the effects of modern life and it’s electronic devices!

The postures will open the chest and abdomen, lengthen the neck, strengthen the upper back and stabilise the shoulder blades.

The instructions for the postures are as you would speak to a child. Remember to make it fun, work them into a game as the kids are not going to want to do them just because it’s good for them!

 

Bellows Breath

(opens chest and allows for full expansion of the lungs and diaphragm)

  • Sit tall in simple cross leg position
  • Interlock fingers at the base of the head
  • Inhale, move elbows out the side, opening chest
  • Exhale and bring elbows back to the ears.
  • (encourage them not to stick their ribs out)

 

Table Top

(opens chest, helps stabilise shoulder blades, lengthens spine, abdomen, hip flexors and works legs & arms)

  • Sit on your bottom with your knees bent, feet on the floor hip distance apart
  • Place your hands on the floor just behind your bottom, with your fingers pointing forward
  • Push into your hands and feet to lift your bottom off the floor.
  • Keep lifting until your bottom is as high as your knees and chest.
  • (Encourage them to hold the pose while breathing normally; could put a ball between their knees to keep hip connection and stop them sticking their knees out to the side )

 

Caterpillar Walks

(works whole body but importantly helps strengthen the shoulder blade stabilisers)

  • Stand tall with your feet hip distance
  • Walk your hands down your legs until you can touch the floor (you may have to bend your knees!)
  • Walk your hands forward to head down dog and straighten your legs
  • Keep your hands still and your legs as straight as possible, walk your feet towards your hands
  • Now walk your hands forward again to head down dog and repeat
  • (Encourage straight legs as this will keep the shoulder blades flat against the ribcage)

 

Upward Facing Bow

(opens chest, shoulders, groins, abdomen while strengthening muscles of the upper back & arms)

  • Lying on your tummy, bend your knees keeping thighs on the floor
  • Take hold of your ankles and press your heels towards the ceiling
  • Lift your thighs off the floor to help lift your chest higher
  • (placing a small exercise ball between their knees will keep the integrity of their knee joint while stretching thighs effectively)

 

Superman

(effectively targets the lower trapezius, among others)

  • Lie on your tummy, legs and feet together
  • Place your hands by the side of your ears and lift elbows away from the floor
  • Lift your head and chest off the floor.
  • Lift both legs, keep straight
  • Change hand position to superman (one arm straight by ear and other by side, then swap)
  • (encourage them to keep moving their shoulders away from the floor)

 

 

 

 

 

Pleasing All of the ‘Junior Yogis’ All of the Time!

Publish in Om Yoga & Lifestyle Magazine Dec 2015

By Veronica Greene

Veronica Greene founded Little Greene Yoga®  and offers a Certified Children’s & Teenage Teacher Training package.

 

As Abraham Lincoln said “You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time!

More simply put, by the British – “You can’t be everybody’s Darling!”

Or can you?

Anyone who teaches yoga knows that some nights a class just doesn’t go to plan no matter how prepared you thought you were. You might go home and beat yourself up but usually one bad class doesn’t define you! Your students return knowing it was an off night and more importantly they know the benefits of yoga as that’s what brought them there in the first place.

 

But what motivates children?

In my experience, as a mother, if your child decides they don’t like something they are so vocal that you eventually agree to them discontinuing, the activity in question, even though you know it’s good for them.

Perhaps I’m a pushover mum!

So what keeps them coming back even after the off days?

I decided to ask my younger students some questions to find out exactly why they return, some for over 10 years! Honestly, I was just a little nervous as children can be so direct………

 

Why do you come to yoga?

“It’s fun and helps with my growing pains.”

“I like it.”

“I don’t know.”

 

Are there days you think, “I don’t want to go back?” If so, why do you feel that way and what makes you return?

“No! Its fun and I like seeing my friends there.”

“Yes, when I get into trouble! I know it’s all forgotten and I possibly did something naughty.”

“Yes, especially when it’s one of the days where you work us really hard. I know the following week will be fun and I don’t want to miss it.”

 

Would you miss it if you stopped?

“YES!” “YES!” “YES!”

 

How long do you think you will keep doing yoga?

“I’ll keep doing yoga all my life.”

“Forever! Just not when I’m a grandma.”

“A few years, maybe until I’m a grown up.”                                                    

 

Do you know why yoga is good for you?

“Yes, I sit crouched in a bad way and yoga corrects it.”

“It’s good because it stretches my muscles.”

“It helps with my breathing”

 

Is this one of the reasons you keep going?

“Yes!” “No!”

 

Would you like to teach yoga one day?

“No. I don’t want to be a teacher to kids as they can be noisy and hard to calm down.”

“Can I? Now?”

“I would but I do already have plans for what I want to be when I grow up. I would teach yoga if I couldn’t do that though!”

 

Is Yoga fun? WHY?             

“Yes!” “Yes!” “Yes!”

“I feel part of a club.”

“I love the games and some of them are really hard!”

“You get to know each other and share your news!”

 

I packed up my belongings, feeling quite pleased with myself – after all I’ve clearly developed a method that works. I then hear a little voice say, “You didn’t ask me why I come to yoga!”

“Go on then! Why do you come to Yoga?”

“Because my Mum makes me!”

I smiled! “Sometimes Mums just know best!” – After all she is my youngest, her sister is now doing Teen Yoga and quite frankly I am very highly trained! More importantly I’m not that much of a pushover mum!

Printed in Om Yoga & Lifestyle Magazine (June 2017)

by Veronica Greene, founder of Little Greene Yoga

Little Greene Yoga a certified children’s teacher training package (3-5yrs; 5-8yrs; 8-12yrs & Teens)

 

Congratulations! You’ve passed and are now a fully qualified Yoga Instructor!

What now?

You have your 200 hours yoga qualification under your belt. You’re ready to take on the whole world and can’t wait to share your knowledge with everyone and I mean everyone – the benefits of yoga should be shared no matter age, sex, health, disability or life stage.

 

So does your yoga qualification really cover you to teach ‘everyone’?

You did attend a talk on children’s yoga as part of your course. You were also instructed to treat pregnant woman as individuals! So surely that means you are able to teach the whole world?

Absolutely – you can teach whomever you want. In fact given that there are no national standards you could’ve taught without actually having done you’re a yoga qualification, in the first place, and many people do!

But not you – you decided to arm yourself with knowledge and completed a ‘certified’ teacher training course!

So do you think that lecture on children’s yoga has equipped you to teach children; the pregnancy notes given are enough to see a student through the nine months of pregnancy and then the postnatal phase?

One could argue that a body is just a body no matter what age or what life stage; one could also argue that yoga is the same no matter who you’re teaching it to!

In part you are right ………………………let’s start from the beginning.

 

Conception!

As soon as a woman conceives and the fertilized egg becomes an embryo major, internal changes start to take place in her body. Hormone levels rise causing a range of symptoms from nausea to loosening joints. Cardiac output increases and blood pressure drops. All changes which are perfectly normal but will affect her balance, mood and body awareness. As the pregnancy progresses the weight of the baby will affect digestion, circulation, breathing not to mention the pressure on her pelvic floor.

Pregnancy Yoga

At this time many woman decide to take up yoga for the first time! Many health practitioners recommend it as they deem yoga a gentle form of exercise. This, of course, will depend on the class and the style that is being taught.

 

As 10 – 20% of spontaneous miscarriages happen in the first trimester taking up any new activity, at this stage is not recommended.

Even after the 1st trimester many instructors do not feel comfortable having a pregnant woman in their class as they have a duty of care for not only the mother but also the unborn child. This is unfortunate as yoga is wonderful physically and mentally for a healthy pregnancy and birth.

Many yoga postures are deemed unsuitable for pregnant woman as they may put too much pressure on the abdomen or pelvic floor – mostly closed twists, abdominal work and strong backbends. That’s the general guidelines for a ‘normal pregnancy’ but what about the common problems that can and do occur in pregnancy – high blood pressure; gestational diabetes, prematurely dilated cervix, Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction? In some yoga traditions even standing postures would be avoided especially if there is a history of miscarriage and these are the mainstay of many a yoga class!

 

After the birth yoga is fantastic to rebuild the body without any risk to the now, born child.

Again many changes have to be made:- prone positions where the mother is lying fully on her abdomen and chest could be uncomfortable and lead to mastitis; unsupported backbends can be too energizing and dry up the mum’s milk supply.

What about pelvic floor issues, painful 3rd degree tears; cesarean scar tissue, carpal tunnel, separated tummy muscles (diastasis recti). In fact the popularised photo of the mum, in a variation of Boat Pose, with her baby balanced on her shins, is an absolute no-no for a mother with separated tummy muscles – who knew!

The child grows and the parents, knowing how great yoga is, send them to a yoga class. These children are just mini people so surely the same yoga can be taught in just a more child friendly way.

No! This small person has a developing body i.e. the arches of the feet are developing; bones are still fusing, hormone surges take place especially in boys aged 4-6yrs; the lumbar curve of the spine does not fully assume it’s adult shape until the age of 10 etc. etc.

 

Many yoga teachers will teach children and teens the same postures as they would an adult and in the same way.

Although inversions are beneficial for their developing endocrine system one really does need to tread carefully.

Children do not have enough body awareness or upper body strength to perform headstands (Sirasasana 1) safely without injury to their cervical spine! Shoulderstands held, as one would in adult class, can be overstimulating to an underdeveloped thyroid gland.

‘True’ Pranayama, as taught on many training courses, should not be practiced with children or indeed teens for a variety of reasons – the most important being that their lungs are still growing until late teens for girls and early 20s for boys. Bhastrika and Kumbhaka pranayama are actually considered dangerous for this age group.

That’s quite a lot of information and responsibility!

 

In the words of Aristotle – “The more you know the more you know you don’t know”.

Legally there’s no requirement for supplemental training but to best prepare for the myriad of life stages and challenges each presents, do consider embarking on some of the specialist training courses that are now available.

Apr
23
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The Power of Story

There are so many styles of yoga and so many different teaching methods in the world today. The beauty of it is there is room for them all. Certain personality
types are attracted to specific disciplines professing that their form of yoga is the only ‘true’ yoga while others are more than happy to mix and match believing that ‘yoga is yoga no matter what’. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and fortunately there is a class out there for everyone.

Children’s yoga isn’t any different.
Purist’s state that yoga should be taught to children using only the true principles of yoga and the use of stories or games distract children out of their bodies and minds. Others teach yoga to children using proven techniques to support their learning and encourage their participation.
Young children learn holistically – by visual, auditory and kinaesthetic means at the same time. Some are more visual or auditory than others but by combining the three you are encompassing all and magnifying the learning outcome.
According to Dr. Margot Sunderland, an award winning author and registered child and adult psychotherapist: “Used well, stories can become a vital part of a child’s healthy, emotional digestive system”.
In her book, ‘Using Story Telling as a Therapeutic Tool with Children’, she explains: “Children do not have sophisticated coping strategies for dealing with their intense or
too difficult feelings. They do not have the inner resources for thinking them through, or regulating their levels of emotional arousal.”

Managing emotions
Feelings like happy or sad are easily understood by a child but other emotions like frustration, tiredness, grief or anxiety, are harder to conceptualise.
Many young children, on starting school, develop stomach aches or headaches but can’t recognise these as symptoms of anxiety from their new surroundings or life.
Acting out yoga through the medium of story really comes into its own here. For example, a story being told through the expression of yoga could portray the main character as developing a tummy ache then through a chance meeting with a wise, old owl could learn that their emotions are creating this physical ache. Of course, the wise old owl can then teach the child how to release this tension through simple breathing techniques. The child therefore learns, through story, that these feelings are normal and that there are solutions. Such storylines, through repetition, become ingrained in the mind so the child’s future, automatic response to tension in the tummy, will be to perform deep diaphragmatic ‘belly’ breathing.
The topics that can be addressed are limitless: making friends; bullying; being different, and so on.

Story time
Of course stories have been used for years by both teachers and parents as a way of teaching children valuable life lessons – everyone knows the story of ‘The Boy who Cried Wolf’. Presenting yoga through story not only captures their imagination and enthusiasm but also teaches the children about the power within themselves, physically and mentally. It provides them with a lifetime toolbox of techniques to self-calm, energise, be in the moment and accept – all traits that can help navigate life’s challenges.
We all use our internal projectors when hearing or reading a story. We play it out visually in our head giving the characters shape and the landscape form. By simply recapping part of your story at the end of a children’s yoga class, while the children are in a supine position, this guided imagery then becomes a meditative process. This is a wonderful way to introduce young children to meditation and mindfulness and the beginnings of a yoga nidra practice.

Veronica Greene is the founder of Little Greene
Yoga and offers a certified children’s teacher training package (3-5yrs; 5-8yrs; 8-12yrs & teens)