7 Reasons to Practice Yoga with Children
Anyone who read my article, 10 Reasons Why We Need at Least 8 Hugs a Day
knows I have a little girl. I am a devoted Dad, and I have a close
relationship with my daughter. Her name is India. And when her Mamma was
pregnant with her, I taught Lauren prenatal yoga
every day. It was a bonding experience. And, for the two years since
India's been out of the womb, we have continued our family yoga
practice together. As a yoga teacher of fourteen years, I can tell you that they are my greatest teachers.
Here are 7 Reasons to Practice Yoga with Children:
1. You'll Remember to Play
have an innate sense of fun. It hasn't yet been conditioned out of them
by society's need to make people conform. Your purest intention for
your yoga practice is this desire to simply enjoy yourself. Many times
when my partner and I have been doing downward dog, our little girl has
been giggling and crawling underneath us, and it made us laugh and
remember how to be light. In Yoga, this is called laghima, a feeling of
levity or weightlessness.
In each cell of our
body lies the memory of our childhood and beyond, when you felt light
and unburdened. Letting go and sharing your yoga with a child allows you
to reawaken, even for an hour, the spirit of when you were free from
artificial beliefs and when you made feeling good in each moment easy
2. Self Expression
you have a joy in your heart, you express it through movement.
Children's bodies naturally move, because their hearts feel good.
Creative movement is the outward expression of positive emotion. Yoga with a little person
reconnects you to the practice as a form of articulating the joy inside.
times, India has shown me that yoga is a dance. In a flowing sequence,
she glides her arms through the air, and folds forward into a bend, then
kicks up into a headstand, then comes down and presses up into upward
dog pose. And I think, “Wow! Yoga is beautiful!”
3. Correct Biomechanics
many Yoga teachers miss in classes, a two year old child will teach you
properly if you observe them carefully. They can teach you that you
should always move from your spine. As a senior teacher mentor and
teacher trainer, I teach how to move from the spine to Yoga teachers
actually. But, my daughter knows it instinctively.
from the lower spine is considered an advanced principle of yoga. It is
often referred to as a “natural body” instead of what most people have,
which is a “normal body.” Young children do it from birth and gradually
lose it over time.
Adults generally lock up
their spine and overcompensate by overextending their hips and their
shoulders. This causes all kinds of problems, including torn hamstrings,
tight lower back, neck pain, and injuries to the rotator cuff. But, if
we learn from a child to move from the spine and keep long and open in
each vertebra, then we will move efficiently.
for an example of me teaching moving from the spine.
we are in a class full of other students, we may become self-conscious
or worried we'll fail or look foolish in front of others. But, children
don't see failure as an option; they simply do it. And, if they don't
get it the first time, they do it again and again until they succeed. A
toddler doesn't see any harm in giving something a go. And practicing
yoga with them teaches us that -- the letting go of inhibitions and
Many times I've been practicing AcroYoga
with India, balancing her on my feet, and people comment, “Geez, she
brave isn't she! She's got no fear!” That's because young children trust
their bodies. This is called the “reflex mind” or “reflex body.” My
Guru taught about it, but I didn't truly grasp what it meant till I had a
are many people practicing yoga who insist on breathing like Darth
Vader in yoga classes. They do ujjayi breathing so loudly that one may
wonder if they get the point at all. The breath of a child on the other
hand is relaxed and gentle and smooth and long. It's the simplest yogic pranayama
competitive idea to breathe deepest or loudest would never occur to a
child. Their breathing comes from the autonomic nervous system, which
makes their breath very easy and relaxed.
the mornings when we practice yoga together with our baby, I often
observe her belly rising and falling with her breath in the postures.
Her abdomen always remains relaxed. Some people will no doubt disagree,
but I have come to realize that in our fitness culture all this
tightening of the abdominal muscles is unnecessary and harmful. In
Pilates, they teach people to tighten their “core” to perform the
exercise. This makes no sense to me, because it restricts blood flow to
the organs and the free movement of the diaphragm. This makes the breath
is a lot of hokey phony baloney in the fitness industry. And this
obsession with tightening the “core” is a prime example. The fact that
our babies can teach us the truth is a thunderbolt of lightning that
shows us how off the mark society can be. The organic truth of babes
when listened to naturally undoes our BS.
child is deeply connected and grounded in their body. Therefore, they
have the awareness to know how far to go into the posture. This is
called proprioception. Because children feel into their bodies and
listen, they never injure themselves by over stretching. For this
reason, practicing Yoga with children reminds people to let go of
unnecessary caution and fear of injury and instead feel into the pose.
a teacher trainer I say, “Allow your students to completely leap and
burst out of their typical movement patterns. Don’t be afraid to go
deeper, and further, and stay a little longer than you have before. Make
the class a challenge. But challenge without awareness, that is
dangerous.” Therefore, I reiterate, children have intelligent bodies.
For them, it is impossible for yoga to be anything but an awareness
practice. They are constantly in tune and listening to their bodies. And
each time we practice together as a family, I am reminded of that.
7. They Take It Off the Mat
being completely authentic and true to themselves, they remain very
intimately connected to God. That is the essence of Yoga. They are
practicing their spirituality ALL THE TIME! Last night when I was
sitting at the computer working, I could hear her singing to herself in
bed. It made me smile. She got up and stood in the corridor and looked
at me tentatively. I said very gently, “Go back to bed.” And, she did.
But, then I felt bad, because I thought she might have wanted a cuddle
from her Dad. And to my relief, a few minutes later she poked her head
around the corner. I smiled and opened up my arms, and she came running
with those little footsteps to be scooped up and embraced. I held her to
my heart, “My precious love.” And then I said, “Just relax, go to
sleep. Dad will rock you to sleep.” She lay there for a moment and then
got down and walked back to her bed.
parent and a yoga teacher, I get a feeling that I belong to a long line
of people who contributed to the creation of humankind. You cannot
describe what it is to be a parent. It's magical. And to practice yoga
together with my child is a great gift for yoga teacher like myself.
They are our greatest teachers.
Special thanks to India Violet, Lauren Ross, Rico Damelian and Anick Patry for giving me the inspiration to write this article.
Published September 22, 2012 at 11:08 AM
About Marcus Julian Felicetti
Marcus became a yoga teacher soon after discovering
yoga at University. His classes are fun, passionate and often intense.
They offer students the chance to go deep within and connect with their
breath and release their emotions. Marcus communicates his love of yoga
through guiding each student with insight and compassion, weaving
ancient wisdom with simplicity and an emphasis on the student’s
experience. His primary objective is to teach a system of yoga that
fully integrates the body, mind and spirit, and channels that energy to
its highest potential and purpose. Marcus continues to grow his own yoga
practice everyday while remaining passionate about helping others
connect to theirs. He teaches private one-on-one yoga in Sydney. His
business Bodhi Yoga provides quality corporate yoga classes to companies
on Sep. 22, 2012 at 11:55 AM