Children are naturally flexible, and generally have an innate sense of balance. Beginning ásanas during childhood will help maintain health and flexibility during adult and later years. The open spiritedness of children makes them naturally curious to try ásanas. Often they will want to follow along as parents practice their ásanas. With a little encouragement and education of physical, mental, and spiritual health, children will quickly take to the postures. Explain the benefits of ásana in terms they can understand, according to their age (teenagers can be told of the reduction of acne, improved concentration, and memory, etc.). Parents can help their youngsters attain these postures, making sure they do not strain or hurt themselves.
To make the child’s ásana time more fun, parents can do two things. First, keep the sessions short, allowing for the child’s attention span. Second, suggest that they pretend to be different animals, and give them the animal names of the ásanas (e.g., lion, snake, cat, etc.). They can also pretend to be objects e.g., the bridge.
Pránáyama breathing exercises are also good for children to learn. As they learn to breathe during the ásanas, they will see how to take breaths from the lower abdominal cavity, rather than the chest. Various forms of meditation can be introduced as well. Children can begin to understand that meditation means anything that makes the mind quiet and relaxed. Sunrises and sunsets, nature walks, and thinking of God are all helpful. If children understand the importance of setting aside a quiet time each day and making this a daily habit, they will retain this habit throughout their teenage and adult years. Ethics and virtue are important principles that ensure sound health and longevity. If parents inculcate and exemplify these principles in daily life, children will better understand them and see these ideals in action.
Children can start yoga from age five. A 15 – 20 minute session is enough to get them started. This can be gradually increased to half an hour or more for older children. Starting from simple animal postures to meditating with the corpse pose, small children can enter the rich world of Yogasanas which will help them establish the body-mind-spirit connection. Without doubt, this will see them sail through every sphere of life smoothly.
Lastly, proper Áyurvedic diet, using herbs and incorporating aroma and color therapies, will round out the healing and balancing of the five senses. So ásanas, práòáyám, meditation, ethics, and Áyurvedic life habits are the keys to a healthy childhood, and the foundations of a healthy and balanced adulthood.