Monday, August 5, 2013

Guest Post: Yoga for Kids by Michelle Witherby



Yoga for Kids by: Michelle Witherby {OrganicContessa}


Some of the most important lessons kids learn happen at a desk
… some happen on a yoga mat” ~ Bent On Learning


When I began practicing yoga over 10 years ago – it was in a small studio located in a quaint neighborhood called Virginia Highlands in Atlanta, GA. The studio fast became my personal reprieve from the hecticness of life and at the time my “time-out”, so to speak, from years of really active athletic practices. Fast forward to 2013 and my yoga practice is still as special as it was then, yet even more intimate. Yoga has helped me to grow as an individual –the calm, peace and centeredness it brings to my life is almost unmatched to anything other than my meditation practice. In writing this I pause to think, if yoga can help me achieve such sweetness and balance in life…what could it do for a young, impressionable mind? A mind aching to connect in a world that most feel, as adults, has grown increasingly disconnected? How can the ancient practice of yoga inspire and affect our new world children, can yoga be for kids?
In speaking with friends of mine who are mommies and have enrolled their children in yoga, the answer is overwhelmingly clear; yoga can move mountains for children. Children desperately (and I don’t say this lightly) need emotional nourishment and activity in life. Yoga has shown to bring a level of centeredness, respect, strength and compassion to the hearts and minds of kids. Kids of all ages. Moms have mentioned to me that their children have a better sense of awareness of who they are as individuals, exhibit more confidence, and more appreciation of themselves which in turn affects how they relate to others around them. Doesn’t matter your age, when we KNOW better, we DO better! Right?!
Recently I sat down with a dear friend and NYC yoga instructor, Michelle Barge, to get the full view on how the practice of yoga can truly benefit children. Certified since 2005, Michelle is a renowned teacher and some years ago began bringing her craft of instruction to the mat at Bent OnLearning – teaching children the joys and discipline of yoga. To me, who better to really help us grasp the importance of yoga for kids then Michelle? Imparting an age old wisdom blended with joy and fun, Michelle shares more on her approach and a look into the children she teaches … I hope it inspires you as much as it did me.


OC:
How long have you been teaching yoga to children?
MB:
Since 2007 – when I became a teacher with Bent on Learning, an organization that brings yoga into the NYC public school system.

OC:
What are some of the overall ways children benefit most from practicing yoga?
MB:
At first, I saw teaching yoga to children and adolescents like teaching anything – tennis, martial arts, swimming….kids have to listen, follow directions and accomplish a task, as well as the group dynamics of course.  What I saw immediately though was a lovely curiosity mixed with respectful listening.
But overall and in general; enhanced listening skills, concentration, respectfulness, calmness

OC:
Children like to move and talk, both of which can be incorporated into practice, but what techniques do you use to hold their attention in class?
MB:
Like with adults, the minute you start throwing out directives to kids – look this way, hand that way, back foot turned in, they have to focus plus they are moving. The older kids, ages 9-13 on up, just usually get into it.  With the younger kids we connect poses to animals; for example fold over, touch your toes and pretend you’re an elephant’s trunk (after a demo of course)
Also yoga has a lot of respect in it inherent to the practice.   With the older kids, we do a contract together – what’s acceptable in class and what isn’t

OC:
I’m thinking there are probably many ways to incorporate “playfulness” into class. As mentioned, children love to assume roles as animals … do you find your students connecting to postures like downward facing dog, cobra, cat/cow?
MB:
We take each pose related to animals and explain how old the practice is and how the yogis used animals to explain the postures.  A great one is downward dog, thinking about a dog on its forearms stretching, OR showing the chest of a thin dog like a greyhound of whippet as that’s how – ideally – the chest should be as prominent in downward dog.

OC:
In what ways have you seen and/or experienced “change” in the children you teach?  Do many of them take their time in class seriously?
MB:
For the younger kids, the time is just pure fun.  Many of the schools don’t have PE (Physical Education), so this is their play time.  For the older kids, especially in NYC where the kids are pretty sophisticated, there’s definitely a cool factor.  But in general, kids 14 on up take it pretty seriously.  I have seen kids have a heightened respect level, ability to concentrate and just an expansion of the mind & curiosity.  Kids want to know about India, the music, other cultures.

OC:
If parents want to practice at home with their kids, is there a particular DVD you would recommend?
MB:
I don’t have a personal recommendation for a DVD, but this resource link might be helpful; KidsYoga

OC:
As a teacher, what wisdom do you wish to impart on the children you teach?
MB:
Most importantly just opening the children’s eyes to new experiences.  I mostly work with children who are in low-to-moderate income conditions OR being in NYC, some kids are just a little bit jaded – kind of been there done that, “oh yeah my Mom does yoga”. But when you get children’s curiosity piqued that’s super important for me.  Next is amping their listening skills and having them in just an electronic free zone for an hour.  But ultimately, to teach children that they can find peace and calm within themselves and that quiet and the ability to meditate and take savasana is a GIFT!

Thank you Michelle for sharing and for bringing such beauty into the world, and to Indigo + Sage for being a vital resource for education, family topics and encouraging a community to create an environment where children can positively thrive!


Namaste ~ OrganicContessa

Michelle Witherby {The Organic Contessa}. Blogs about personal interests relating to green living and sustainability. CEO & Founder of O&N Collective ; an online beauty & wellness apothecary specializing in world class, non-toxic skin & personal care products, her passion is for advocating safe & effective skin care as well as encouraging a way of life that promotes overall life balance. The Organic Contessa and Liv Well Team consists of contributing editors who are experts in yoga, green-living, beauty, wellness, nutrition, personal growth & spiritual wealth – with a  mission to encourage a lifestyle that’s not only better for our bodies but also for the soul, mankind, and plantet as well.  “Beauty & wellness begins from within” ~ Organic Contessa



1 comment:

  1. This was a good suggestion that you put up here...dude…..hope that it benefits all the ones who land up here. 

    Gym Equipment

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