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Children & Yoga: Why Yoga Matters For 21st Century Children

by Marsha Therese Danzig, MEd

In a recent article in Newsweek, it was reported that American children are in a creativity crisis. What does that mean? Children that are given less opportunity or support to role play, express emotions through play, problem solve, create imaginary worlds, make up play friends, and think outside the box are losing vital opportunities to build their intelligence and their motivation.

Additionally, children who are more sedentary, or who are less likely to participate in sports, are often placated with video games and other electronic toys. According to Aadil Palkhivala, a yogi teaching in Oregon, the AC current that is found in computers, cell phones, televisions, and other electrical devices, pierces our magnetic field, literally causing our iron rich blood to move in the current’s directions (as in not our natural current). Our nervous system is then fatigued, the brain overworked and the entire system unable to guard the side effects of chronic stress The cycle continues as the exhausted system then goes numb, and of course wants to play more video games to replicate itself. Stress that is chronic produces elevated cortisol levels (a breeding ground for diabetes), hormonal imbalances (bone loss, eating disorders, emotional disorders), rage and aggression (from unexpressed emotions), bullying (a national epidemic), insomnia (which increases cortisol levels and increases anxiety & depression), nervous habits (which can lead to addictive behavior), and immune disorders (drain on the overtaxed medical community).

The good news is thatYoga can help children maintain balance through the challenges they face.

Competition. When children are taught that their value is based on external rewards, they can lose willingness to be curious unless they get something out of it. Yoga teaches them to discover the moment, then find innovation and self determination.

Trauma. When children are traumatized, which can be as simple as getting hurt on the playground or as horrible as physical and emotional abuse, their little nervous systems , when already stressed, get locked into the body/mind, causing isolation, aggression, violence, frozenness, stomachaches, headaches and other more serious illnesses. Yoga is very soothing. It calms the nervous system, boosts immunity, harmonizes the self, helps children embody then move through difficult feelings, turns on the parasympathetic system, reduces ADD, and fosters cooperative environments.

Anxiety. Anxiety can be caused by stress, competition, trauma, lack of sleep, over scheduling, too much homework, relationship issues at school, tests, family problems. There is an endless list. Yoga, especially the practices of creative visualization, meditation, slow breathing, and deep forward bends, can really help reduce anxiety and recondition the nervous system, allowing children to form their own inner connections and self empowerment.

ADD/ADHD is the inability of children to stay focused, be comfortable in their surroundings, have ease in social situations, and have follow through with tasks. Yoga, because of its slow progressive methods to engage the entire being, teaches children how to regulate themselves, build an internal sense of rhythm and express their energy creatively.

Violence and Aggression. There are many situations that trigger violence and aggression. Yoga class may provide the one safe place for a child to find their inner language and experience healing. The practice of Loving Compassion is the foundation of any good children’s yoga program. Children’s social-emotional development depends on a balanced loving harmonious learning environment, which yoga creates. Teaching Loving Compassion has tremendous health and societal benefits, DHEA (what keeps us young!) is raised astronomically in people who live by loving compassion. These people also have lower cortisol production thus allowing them to live more fully in the parasympathetic nervous system, our "here I am and it’s all okay!" nervous response.

Inability to express emotions. When a child does not experience the necessary steps of social-emotional development, mental illness can develop, violence and aggression can increase, and frozen feelings keep children uninspired, bored, restless and experiencing poor health in bones, joints and organs. Yoga engages all the senses, creates a loving learning environment so children can relax and be more receptive, allowng them to experience confidence, curiosity and comfort in relating to others. A relaxed receptive body produces a relaxed receptive brain, willing and, most importantly, able to learn.

Childhood Obesity. Children who suffer from obesity have more adult health issues as children now than ever before. They can lose their innate ability to make creative choices. They can develop language skill issues, lose their energy, hence their vitality. Yoga for children, which involves creative play, gets kids off their seats and on the yoga mat. Their brain develops more rapidly. Learning coordination in movement increases brain power, according to a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Movement and creative play stimulate brain derived neurotrophic factor, which stimulates healthy bone growth.

Marsha Therese Danzig is the founder of Color Me Yoga for Children, an International 200 Hour Yoga School and Children’s Yoga Program committed to bringing the gift of yoga to all children everywhere. You can read more about her and Color Me Yoga at www.colormeyoga.com or contact her at info@colormeyoga.com, 978-468-YOGA.

© 2010 Marsha Therese Danzig dba as Color Me Yoga Enterprises,LLC


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