Most of us know the value of yoga but how many of us encourage our children to learn the practice?
I went along to Diana Brook’s studio on a cold Sunday morning where classes are held that are designed with children, young people and families in mind.
My six year old accompanied me.
Sinéad, our teacher has a gentle but clear approach, engaging the children or little yogis as she calls them, with imaginative imagery and descriptions.
Our bellies are balloons, our bodies, bananas and we have suddenly developed super powers.
“Excellent” says my daughter.
Let me make the point that none of this is patronising in the least. It’s creative. Energetic. And more importantly the children are thoroughly absorbed. I can see each of them accessing their super sonic hearing as they listen attentively, and engaging their super sonic sight as they try to discover every freckle, hair or crease on their bodies.
It’s the beginning of a new type of awareness for them.
They work together, passing chimes silently around the room and crashing them together when the time comes, exhaling until the sound completely disappears.
Building on self awareness, Sinéad tells us “the chimes are louder if your eyes are closed”.
As parents, we work too.
The big yogis in downward dog and the little yogis crawling underneath us all. This unleashes a new energy in the room as we collectively practice together. We balance and support one another, stretch, breath and move.
One of the great benefits of the class is that the children see us as parents taking care of our bodies – they learn by watching us, they learn from the things we do and the things we say.
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” James Baldwin.
If younger children learn by example, what about our teenagers?
Do we forget that they need a dedicated space to disentangle the stresses and worries of their lives? An introduction to yoga could be just the thing and the second Sunday class Grace & Flow is a good place to start.
Sinéad opens the class by telling us to let go of the week and open ourselves up for the week ahead; clearing the baggage and allowing new things to unfold.
The movement that follows is deeply connected to the breath.
Placing such attention on the breath permits the space and time in which to reflect on our state of mind. Understanding and utilising the practice of self reflection is, to me a sign of maturity and can become a valuable tool in self care.
The time for self reflection is difficult for any of us when we consider how hectic our lives have become, but if we could introduce the idea to our children at an early age there is potential there to form a habit; that meditation becomes second nature; raising children who become independent adults that are able to take responsibility for themselves and their feelings.
The sequences during the practice are slow and mindful, giving the body and mind plenty of opportunity to release any tension and establish a rhythmic flow that increases the connection between mind, body and breath. This is about building strength in the body as well as giving ourselves the room to surrender whatever unnecessary baggage we are holding onto. When we move physically and place the mind and breath into areas where there is pressure, the result can often be an emotional release. And so an opportunity to identify and ultimately ditch the stresses that we no longer need, that serve only to bring us down.
With the repetitive flow within the movement, I’m becoming better connected with my body. I’m discovering its capabilities as well as its limitations.
Imagine that…a teenager who is comfortable in her or his own skin because they commit to building an intuitive relationship with it?
I wouldn’t mind that for my daughter. I wouldn’t mind that for any child.