Whole Me Up, Super Yoga Kids!
by Zu Anjalika Kamis Gunnulfsen
When my boys dragged out the yoga mats, spread them out and mimicked my downward facing dog, I was elated. So elated that I decided to look further into yoga for kids. I knew then I had read somewhere what yoga can do for growing minds. That was 2013.
My boys were then two and three years old. We were living in Oslo, Norway where authentic yoga is a pretty rare commodity, what more, yoga for kids.
Fast forward a year later, relocation to Kuala Lumpur and brief conversation with a friend led to many online researches to seek more information on kids’ yoga. It was then that I found MAYI’s Super Yoga Kids Instructors certification course.
I have never looked back since.
You see, Super Yoga Kids is a total depiction of what adults’ yoga is, and more.
Super Yoga Kids (SYK) is the name given for MAYI’s yoga classes for children.
The term Super Yoga is coined from the fact that it is believed a child will emerge awe-inspiring in more aspects than one after picking up yoga at a young age. The age we are talking about is four – yes a child can start taking up yoga at the tender age of four; even though there are remote cases of even younger kids practicing this beautiful ancient Indian art.
Now, what exactly is Super Yoga Kids?
Like (adults) yoga, children are guided through tailored asanas (poses) to safely develop balance, strength and suppleness. At the same time, establish a better sense of physical, emotional and mental ability. Specialised teaching techniques are used to stimulate young minds while nurturing their physical and mental development. I cannot reiterate enough how positive yoga is to anyone; and for a child, it will definitely be the greatest gift ever.
The best part, in my opinion is that Super Yoga Kids helps to instill values in the young. The current state of chaos in this world makes it an even better time to expose our young children to the right rules of conduct and standards of behaviour.
First and foremost, let’s take a look at the physical aspects of SYK; how the kids are guided in this art and what they can expect in terms of physical development.
To put it simply to a child, SYK is just a way of moving their tiny bodies gently and without much effort to improve and maintain their physicality and keep them in tip-top condition. Of course, as the young child gets older, he might be keen to know the deeper meaning of yoga and they are very much welcome to research more into this art.
With the heavy load school-going kids carry on their shoulders each day, the countless hours they spent hunched in the classroom; not to mention mental alertness that is required to follow through lessons, I can only think of one activity, a saving grace, if you will, that should be incorporated into their daily lives – YOGA. SYK will see that their lopsided shoulders get eased-up, rectify their hunched back to a better posture and most definitely calm and sharpen their minds for better attention and absorption of what is taught in class.
To put things in perspective, let’s take a look at a typical SYK session.
In SYK, sessions usually start with awareness and energisation. It is SYK’s philosophy that children must be taught to be aware of their being and existence. This exercise reiterates the beautiful and miraculous part of themselves; their bodies.
Joint exercises or pawanmuktasana, as we call it in yoga, comes next. In this session kids are guided through stretching, bending and rotating sequences of their joints in every part of their body; better still the places which are often neglected like the hip and toe joints.
After working and easing on the joints, they children will then go on to do Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation. Surya Namaskar is a chain of choreographed asanas or poses to help in the clarity of mind, regulation of breaths and total body well-being.
Asanas comes right after Surya Namaskar. Asanas or poses in SYK, most often than not, are conducted in fun and interactive manner. Most asanas are given animal names so kids can act-out and mimic the given animal for each of the asanas. This creates a lot of imaginative play and teamwork; not to mention the improvement of vocabulary and word-grasps.
Since we are dealing with young, active minds and bodies, creativity plays a huge part. Thematic asanas is big with children of SYK. They just love to wonder their minds in fantasy, depending on what theme that day holds, while their tiny bodies move fluidly, from each asana to the next.
Yoga Nidra is a very powerful form of relaxation. It is a combination of awareness of the physical body and creative visualisation through rotation of consciousness. Children are guided through simple and short visualizations.
Breathing plays a vital role in SYK. Deep and proper breathing ensures oxygen is taken to right places so that inner cells are well oxygenized and energized to function properly. Oxygenized cells also mean improved nervous system, better mental alertness, improved digestive system, which also acts as an immunity booster. So common coughs and colds will be at bay; good news for parents! With all these in mind, it’s not a wonder breathing takes the center stage in yoga.
SYK’s signature Mind Training is a definite boost for children. It works on internal factors like left-right brain hemispheres which helps in creativity and being calm, amongst others.
So, with the physical aspects of SYK explained, let us take a look as to what constitutes instilling values in SYK.
There are two parts to this; Yama and Niyama.
Yama is regaining balance in life; while Niyama is the practices that lead to wisdom and self-knowledge. Together, they have the power to help to implement and regain values that most certainly are depleting, unfortunately, with the rise of technology and use of gadgets.
With all these conveyed to a child at a very young age, it will be amazing to see him or her develop and function as a wholesome and well-rounded individual later on in life.
Super Yoga Kids, as we call it, will not turn a child into Superman but it will definitely make the child a super human; body, mind, soul.
This article was featured in YogaMail Apr-Jun 2017 issue.