Child Development Through Yoga

Why Yoga for Children?

I began teaching Yoga to kids in the summer of 2009.  Earlier in the year I had a breakthrough moment on my mat.  It was as if everything I had experienced from childhood to that moment came together.  Almost immediately I wished that I could have learned at an earlier point in my life, as a kid even, what Yoga clearly mapped out about the human being. In an instant, I imagined how the years prior to this breakthrough moment could have been easier and more joyful, inspiring me to become a Kid’s Yoga Teacher.

The rich, powerful wisdom of the classic Yogic philosophy can easily be applied to children’s Yoga in a fun way.  We use imaginative games, songs, and stories to get moving and to deeply relax.  This play-based approach incorporates all of the essential parts of Yoga: proper exercise, proper breathing, proper relaxation, proper diet, positive thinking and meditation.  Development of motor skills, increased body awareness, empathy and ability to express feelings, and the peacefulness that comes from the practice of Yoga are all available to children!

 What is Yoga?

The word Yoga means to yoke, or tether together.  Through the practice of Yoga you integrate the physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual elements of your life.  To me, Yoga is like a life map to awareness of the connectedness of those elements in yourself, which in turn fosters the consciousness of the unity of everything in the universe. 

The Eight Limbs of Yoga

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the most well known ancient Yogic text, maps out the 8 Limbed Path of Yoga.  We use the Sutras as a basis for our classes.  It begins by explaining that keeping the mind undisturbed is Yoga. How?
  • The first limb, Yama, teaches five abstentions, or “bad habits” that we as Yogis abstain from: violence, lying, theft, gluttony, and greed.
  • The second limb, Niyama, teaches the five precepts.  These are our natural state when we abstain from bad habits.  They are five good habits: purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-directed learning, and devotion.
  • The third limb, Asana, is how Yoga begins to improve and develop the physical body.  Asana are the poses and they are just 1/8 of Yoga!
  • Once you are in touch with your body and gain awareness of and control over your limbs, the fourth limb, Pranayama, is introduced.  Breathing exercises help with gaining awareness and eventual control of your energy for more vitality.
  • The fifth limb, Pratyahara, is the practice of internal focus.  The purpose is emotional rest.
  • The sixth limb, Dharana, is concentrating the mind on one thing such as an image or word, in order to increase spiritual strength.
  • The seventh limb is Dhyana, or meditation.  Practicing mediation will help prevent disruptive thoughts, which upset concentration.
  • The eighth limb, Samadhi, culminates in true knowledge or enlightenment… an awakening of sorts to your unity with the universe and God.
As you see, the science of Yoga acknowledges and supports development at all levels of the child.  As a child, I had that innate drive to search for the truth of what I’d heard about oneness, which I suppose is what led me to Yoga to begin with.  I have a feeling that potentially all kids have that little spark of desire to find the freedom that comes from realizing your true nature.

During Kid’s Yoga classes we come together in a non-competitive environment and enjoy our time as we build a solid foundation for life.  The classes give the kids the vocabulary to discover and describe new things about themselves.  They feel more calm and able to move gracefully and skillfully along life’s ups and downs.  They are able to practice knowing that they are much more than what they have or don’t have, and that there is always a peaceful place inside themselves where they can retreat when life gets intense.   Yoga teaches how to be well and enjoy the gift of life.  I would love to have the opportunity to share what I’ve learned through Yoga with your child.

Margo Tafuri Champion teaches yoga to children at Orlando area elementary schools, churches and Red Sun Yoga. In addition she teaches many adult classes and workshops.She is currently teaching four classes each week at Red Sun Yoga.