Take a quick scan around any households or classrooms and we are bound to spot some children and youths who are shy and timid. Shyness is often used to describe a person who is reserved, nervous and uncomfortable around others. The display of shyness and timidity are often associated with introversion, nervousness and even fearfulness. However, this perception is often far from the truth. Although they are intelligent and aware, and often compassionate and caring, they prefer not to voice out or take action because they simply do not want to bother anyone or cause inconvenience to others.
In some cases, shy or timid children often have a history of being punished or criticised for their thoughts, ideas and actions. The shyness escalates if these comments come from people whose opinions matter to them: e.g. parents, mentors and peers. As a result, they resort to “clamming up”, preferring to remain quiet and follow other people’s lead.
In the early years of development, timidity in toddlers can easily be spotted. Timid toddlers are usually slow to warm up to new people and situations, tend to avoid group activities due to nervousness, fear, etc. When faced with such situations, the timid child would often cling to parents for security, preferring to observe before deciding to join in. Hence, other children who are sociable in nature may mistake this child as being unfriendly or snobbish. And this may lead to an adverse repercussion if other children take less interest in befriending the timid child.
Shyness in teenagers, however, could be due to one being overly self-conscious, particularly in social situations, and/or having a negative perception of the self. This takes place typically during puberty when the body is undergoing changes and they become increasingly concerned of their self-image.
While shyness can be managed, the act of being treated and ‘labelled’ as shy and timid can discourage the child or teenager from actively getting involved in group activities. If this becomes a routine, it could lead to a low rate of accomplishment and subsequently a loss of self-confidence and self-esteem. In extreme cases, it could lead to Social Anxiety Disorder, the third largest mental healthcare problem in the world.
Shy children need positive guidance, constant support, reassurance and encouragement. Parents and mentors of shy children need to create ample opportunities for these children to participate in activities that build self-confidence. Having said that, this should be done progressively so that children feel comfortable of the process and will be receptive in participating in future attempts.
Efforts need to be made to minimise solitary activities which do not promote social skills, such as watching television and playing computer games alone. These activities are best replaced with a trip to the playground, joining group classes or activities which present opportunities for them to interact with others.
Whenever faced with nervousness, children can be guided through the practice of deep breathing and relaxation. Relaxation is one of the important tools in combating nervousness and the practice of deep breathing is one of the fastest ways to induce relaxation. Deep breathing can be done by breathing in and out slowly. Older children can practise by breathing in slowly to the count of three and then breathing out slowly to the count of six. This can be repeated five times with the eyes closed, followed by an affirmation, e.g. “I am comfortable when interacting and participating in group activities.”
Yoga asanas which are beneficial to children with a timid personality:
Simhagarjanasana (Roaring Lion Pose) – an excellent pose to release pent-up emotions and to shake off nervousness.
Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) – helps to open up the chest and throat region, encouraging a brave stance.
Ushtrasana (Camel Pose) – the backward bend position in this asana helps in managing rounded back and drooping shoulders, thus giving the practitioner a more confident-looking posture.
Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) – the variations of the Trikonasana series regulate the nervous system and help to alleviate nervous depression.
Surya Namaskar – this energetic sequence will help to increase dynamism in the practitioner.
This article was featured in YogaMail Jul-Sep 2016 issue.