Imagine the scene, a miserable day, cold, wet, windy, a nursery full of energetic children used to plenty of outdoor play but perhaps, for a little while, it has been decided we will stay indoors. How can we bring a bit of calm and serenity to our environment? How might we find some quite and calm if we needed some in our lives as adults? Should we try a yoga session? Why not? Adults have practiced yoga for generations, in fact I believe in one form or another yoga exercises have been around for over 5000 years and is beneficial in so many ways, including helping us to focus as we concentrate on breathing patterns and holding postures.
I have been practicing yoga for over 3 years now and I encourage all of my friends to take it up. Recently I was fortunate enough to spend a whole day on a Yoga retreat, I don’t think I have ever felt so ‘zen’ in all my life! I go to a yoga class every Wednesday, sometimes, especially in the winter or on a cold wet day, it’s a struggle to get myself out of the door but I know I always feel the benefit, it’s like a mid-week recharge, a little boost to see me through to the end of the working week, throw in the 10 minutes or so relaxation/meditation at the end of the session and any doubts about going to class have melted away. It’s also something I build into my everyday life, I can often be found standing up in the office stretching or bending one way or another, so why wouldn’t children benefit from this too?
I’ve been speaking to one of our nursery practitioners to find out how we practice yoga with the children in our setting and what she thinks the benefits are.
“We have a yoga session once a week with small groups of children so everyone gets the chance to take part. Not only do the children benefit from the yoga as exercise they are learning lots more e.g. we point to and name the body parts as we do some stretches. When we move on to some yoga poses we explain to the children what the pose is called, e.g. dancer, down dog, airplane – the children are offered support to achieve the pose but they also create their own idea of the movement. Throughout the session we imagine we are in a story, the children all add ideas and we act out our story using the yoga poses, so here they are also expanding their creative thinking.
The children can sometimes struggle with the balancing poses so we offer support or the children partner up which encourages communication and confidence in talking to each other and builds trust as they help each other balance.
Towards the end of the session we lower the lights and lie down for some relaxation and focus on our breathing, a few minutes of stillness and calm.
As a practitioner I not only see the benefits of the exercise, also the children are developing risk taking and seeking challenges. They are always proud of the movements they achieve and once they return to their friends in the main nursery room there is always lots of chatter about the movements they have done today. All of the children enjoy the yoga sessions, they are very focused and can remember the names of the poses week after week.”
If we can instil even just a little bit of these practices into children from a young age what a tool they will have at their disposal to help them not only stay strong and flexible throughout life but which could help them retain or reclaim a sense of calm during times of stress or challenge.