slow, mindful yoga & small group classes in St Kilda, Balaclava, Elwood, bayside

Yoga Me Well Blog

Generation Yogi

Annalise and Mei walked into the community centre class, two wriggly, giggly pubescent girls. I smiled weakly and sighed. I sighed because I was tired and community centre classes are often demanding; they’re cheap and attract truckloads of lovely people who needs are vast and wide.

Acute back problems, specific injuries, chronic conditions, inflamed emotions, exhausted mums, self-conscious concretised men, the vital and enthused, the depressed and disillusioned  and on this tired night, I knew I couldn’t span the chasm.

“What is it you’d like out of this class?” I asked the girls, who were coming for the first time.

“Fun,” they said.

I explained to them, and their poor, frazzled, over-worked mother, that while they were welcome to attend, they’d enjoy a richer experience at a yoga class tailored to the Yogi Generation. Mum was offended (overtired). How dare I presume her children were lacking the intelligence to grasp the spiritual concepts of an adult class.

“Sigh”. It’s not about intelligence. Yoga for kids and teens is different to yoga for adults. In fact young kids, in particular, are much closer to their spiritual ‘womb’ or inner self because of their all-embracing perspective. We life-worn adults are the ones with steely-bars of unhelpful attitudes and beliefs blocking our way.

Age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate yoga can be delivered as the magic it is because children have the imagination and openness to explore yoga’s spirituality. Why shoe-horn a young person’s radically different state-of-mind, emotional and physical being into an older class when passionate teachers are tailoring yogic adventures for 4-7 year-olds, 8-11 year-olds, 12-15 year-olds and higher teens?

Some people question whether kids need yoga at all. What have they got to be all knotted-up about? Ask any primary school cherub and the answer could be “plenty”: missing time with dual-income parents; cyberbullying; parental divorce; loved ones with cancer; sibling rivalry; friendships turned sour; plain old not coping (yes, already).

Here are a few reasons to seek out an age-appropriate class for your beautiful blossoms:

Storm breaker

At a time when teens most need reassurance and support, a yoga teacher makes a terrific storm-breaker. He or she can be a non-threatening, significant source of perspective for beleaguered or confused teens who are trying to work out their place in life. No matter how good the parenting, it helps to have an independent adult (who isn’t emotionally invested) whose soul job (awful pun, but intended) is to recognise, nurture and uplift their individuality.

Competing for gold

Healthy competition is gold for establishing essential qualities like motivation, focus and discipline, but ruthless on self-esteemless others who compare themselves endlessly, and fall short despairingly, of the Chris Judds and Giaan Rooneys of this world. Yoga’s consciously-created, non-competitive space teaches kids that they’re a winner as they are: “You are unique for a reason; no one can ever be a better `you’; and only you can do what you have come to do in this life”. Yoga encourages kids to accept everything they are, the positive and the negative.

Quasimodos-in-the-making

Kids’ rapidly evolving bodies are strapped into heavy school bags and plonked on seats far too many hours a day, compressing delicate spines and ceasing muscular activity (and therefore vital internal processes). At home, it’s more of the same at the PC or TV. Osteopaths, chiropractors and Bowen therapists must rub their hands in glee at the security of this income stream. I’m often astounded at how much kids lack in reasonable flexibility and strength.

Wise l’il souls

Imagine if someone had told you at an early age that your potential was infinite, that you had all the resources within you to cope with anything life threw your way, and then showed you how to tap those resources. Yoga teaches self-awareness, self-responsibility (for life and your actions and reactions to it) and how to draw upon intuition and deeper layers of wisdom by connecting to the inner self. That’s one ‘imaginary’ friend you want by your side.

Shhhhh, can you hear it?

Kids rarely hear the sound of silence. One of life’s speedier lessons is “You’re weird, or a geek or a nerd” if you enjoy time alone. How many kids do you know whose extracurricular activities rival the diaries of Blue Chip executives? We’re creating a generation of burnt-outs before they’ve had time to bloom. I had one VCE student who came to class all floppy, and I let her flop in bliss because it was the only place she was allowed to. Yoga for young ‘uns nurtures a reflective, contemplative, clear-thinking generation.

Mini Resources

Keep your eyes peeled for flyers.
Google “children’s yoga Melbourne”.
Search www.yogabugs.com.au or www.findyoga.com.au or www.yogateachers.asn.au to find a kids’ class near you.

Visit www.meditationcapsules.com for a sensational book and CD on mini meditations by Janet Etty-Leal, a wonderfully accomplished meditation teacher who runs her highly successful Meditation Capsules program in schools all over Melbourne.

Check out this excellent boxed set of cards for under 8s (“Creative Yoga Games for Kids”) as well as a guided relaxation CD for teenagers at
www.overthemoonstudio.com/index.html .

Lisa Mitchell is a hatha yoga teacher, relaxation instructor and freelance writer/editor who specialises in holistic wellbeing.

Liv Mitchell

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Liv Mitchell is a senior teacher of yoga, mindfulness and a freelance writer.

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