When was the last time you talked with your spouse or children about the importance of the environment? Too frequently, we hear gloomy stories about the ozone layer getting worse, water contamination by pesticides, or the upsurge of genetically reproduced cows. These stories are becoming a way of life for us. We forget that these environmental issues will be problems for future generations to fix. What can a community, family, or parent do? Help children to love nature and appreciate the world in which they live. Children do not spend enough time in nature due to a number of reasons, including: parent(s) working; too many scheduled activities; or too much TV watching or other use of electronic devises. However, neither TV nor video games are able to teach a child how to explore, be creative, or develop self-esteem. Studies have shown that too much time in front of a TV, or playing a video game has directly led to a growing younger population dealing with obesity, stress and poor eating habits. By exposing children to yoga and nature, we are opening a whole new world of appreciation for the environment, stewardship and self-care.
So, what can yoga offer children? It’s a great way to spend quality time with your children. Yoga allows children to explore and be creative in movement, connecting the mind and body. Since children are active and lively, their yoga practice would be as well. One might hear sounds of animals as they move into a pose such as cat (meow), cow (moo) or downward facing dog (barking). Yoga allows children to play, move and be creative with each posture. Motivate your children to spend more time in nature – it only takes one adult who will foster this love of nature to their children for a lifetime benefit. Take yoga to the outdoors, whether in your backyard or local park, and use the natural surroundings to inspire the flow of creativity with each movement. While it seems apparent, children are suffering from a lack of connection to their own bodies, their environment and the food they eat. According to Sita Chillemi, Director of Yoga for Life in Setauket NY, "A heart of wisdom can shower our world like rain to a flower garden, but we must be able to withstand the energy of the elements, like warriors shine on and on - sat nam namaste joi bhagwan - positive energy to all."
Yogi Bhajan, Ph.D. and founder of 3HO, shares an interesting quote, “Children are super-sensitive, full-fledge people, with high potency antennae that record every vibration within their vicinity, completely and deeply.” This is all so true of a newborn baby. He or she is getting used to this new world around them. As a new parent or caregiver, you can help your newborn relax and uncurl in his or her new environment through a gentle touch, eye contact, your voice and your nurturing love.
The Wall Street Journal printed an interesting article entitled “Namaste. Now Nap Time”, in March 28, 2011, discussing how yoga for children is taking off across the country, as parents look for new activities that can help with motor skills development, as well as behavioral problems. Through yoga, children become more aware of themselves and others, their natural inner beauty, and allow compassion to grow. When we nurture these abilities, we enable children to succeed.
Through yoga and nature, children begin building a relationship with the natural world and activities that open the senses and build trust. Yoga facilitates the connection. Everyone, from newborns to preschoolers, and through adulthood, can begin a yoga practice.
Toni Reidel has been a certified group fitness and personal trainer since 1987, and 200-hour yoga instructor since 2008. She has been using Yoga postures, breathe work and incorporating Patanjali's Yoga Sutras - Eight Limbs of Yoga - into her life for the last eight years. She is also certified through Yoga Ed. to teach yoga to At-Risk Youth for Trauma and Stress, Yoga for PTSD, grief, anxiety and depression.