The CHI in CHIldren?
Our children live in a hurry-up world of busy parents, school pressures, lessons for this and for that, video games, malls, and competitive sports, cell phones and text messages. We may not realize how stressful all these are for our children, but often they are. The bustling pace of our children's lives can have a profound effect on their innate joy—or lack thereof.
Marsha Weing, wrote an article for Yoga Journal entitled, Yoga For Kids. She writes, "Children derive enormous benefits from yoga. Physically, it enhances their flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness. In addition, their concentration and sense of calmness and relaxation improves. Doing yoga, children exercise, play, connect more deeply with the inner self, and develop an intimate relationship with the natural world that surrounds them. Yoga brings that marvelous inner light that all children have to the surface."
In the April 2005 issue of IDEA Journal an article entitled CHIldren - the Mind Body Link explores teaching children about their CHI through yoga. Here is an exerpt from that article.
"Does a cat move slowly or quickly when stalking a bug?"
"Slowly" respond the children.
"Really?" asks the teacher. "Why would a cat move slowly?"
"So he doesn't scare the bug away," they answer.
"That is right, and once the cat is close enough, he can move quickly, right?"
"Yes!" they answer excitedly.
I then point out that the cat is aware that the bug has "quick" chi, but is also aware of his own feline "slow" and "last-second-quick" chi.
"So is it good sometimes to focus and move slowly to get closer to your goal?" I ask.
"Yes," they respond and chi lesson number 1 is learned.
A technique this instructor uses to teach flexibility of the mind as well as the body is as follows.
"Who likes trees?"
"I do. I do." is the resounding response.
"Who likes to climb trees?"
The same response is heard.
Then I cue them: "Pretend you are a tree. Pretend that your feet are the roots, grounded and centered, so they're strong; your trunk or body is the trunk of the tree; your arms are the branches, and your fingers are the leaves. When the wind blows, does the tree stiffen up and say, "No! I'm not going to move?"
"No!" the kids answer.
"That is correct! When the wind blows, the tree moves with it, right?"
"Right," they agree.
"So what would happen if a tree were rigid and stiff?"
A little voice speaks up, "It breaks."
I then ask them to keep their feet planted and pretend the wind is blowing. We all move. The only "rule" is that they can't move their feet because they are planted firm. Then we proceed to discuss the importance of keeping centered in our lives as well as our bodies. That way we don't give away our power to others but we learn to be flexible.
Helping our children to understand the difference between good chi and negative chi is an important coping tool. When they make the connection of feeling good in body and mind at an early age the knowledge stays with them. This is critical in the pre-teen and teenage years. Studies have shown how that connection produces better self esteem and effects how they speak to and referring to their peers. This mind/body connection has also shown to help them be happy in the moment rather than thinking happiness comes from others or posessions, therefore helping them deal better with peer pressure.
Just remember, your children are never too young to start yoga, and it isn't too late to introduce it to your older children. The skills they learn will be valuable throughout their lives.