The practice of yoga is widely believed to have the ability to help the hyperactive and attention-deficit child. Children in general love to move, but children with short attention spans crave movement and sensory/motor stimulus. By calming and focusing the child, yet still incorporating movement, yoga helps channel those impulses in a positive way. The tree pose and the warrior pose seem to work especially well as they help instill confidence, calm, and balance. The trick is to help the child get beyond just "doing" the posture. Try to get them to use their imaginations and think about what the poses mean, to become like the aspects of nature they're mimicking.
When practicing yoga in the classroom or at home with your children, it's a good idea to use some partner poses to develop trust. The children develop team skills when working with each other on the poses, and it also fosters bonding. Some children have a difficult time closing their eyes while others have no trouble relaxing. I once had my eight-year-old son ask me if we could have an extra long relaxation session. He knew that he needed more time to relax! Visualization is a wonderful technique to use with children that encourages relaxation. This is great to do after watching a kids yoga DVD or when getting ready for bed.
A good approach to relaxation is to create a story or guided visualization with a calming theme. For example, you can ask your children to imagine themselves walking in a green meadow. "Look at the beautiful trees and the butterflies...Smell the fresh air. Listen to the birds singing...." You get the idea. The goal is to evoke a sense of peace, a feeling of oneness with nature, and a feeling of safety. Another technique is to have them listen to some soft music and focus on belly breathing. You might ask them to imagine they are swimming at the beach, playing their favorite sport, or doing some other activity they enjoy.
When doing yoga in the classroom, since it's likely the children won't be going to sleep after the exercise (depending on their age), try to encourage them to share their own experiences with the visualization/relaxation process. Their stories, ideas and questions can easily be addressed in a way that fosters a learning experience for the whole class. While it seems that hyperactivity and ADD are diagnoses that are commonly thrown around in this day and age, really what kids are suffering from is over-stimulation and a lack of connection with the essentials that truly keep them healthy.
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Written by Kacy Suther. Learn more about yoga for children with a kids yoga dvd. Offers yoga in the classroom, yoga poses for kids, more at yogakids.com .
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