Asanas are yoga postures that stretch our bodies and minds. They help bring balance into our daily lives. The yoga postures work on increasing the oxygen and blood flow throughout the body. Yoga postures increase the flexibility of the spine. The nerves from the spine are connected to all parts of the body, so they supply and nourish all the organs and glands.
Yoga poses straighten and tone the body keeping it flexible, strong and balanced. Children have all 108 poses within them from birth and have an affinity to certain poses according to their body type. For example, a child who is fiery and dynamic (Pitta), rajaic are easily distracted or hyperactive i.e. always moving and jumping around and benefit by relaxing and calming poses e.g. Yogic sleep although may need some dynamic, active poses to exhaust them first.
Children who are more slow-moving (tamasic), that is daydream alot, not attentive will need more stimulation such as dynamic yoga e.g. sun salutations. They respond well to lots of movement and games to stir their creativity. The sattvic child who has good attention will benefit from balancing exercises.
Yoga poses keep the bones healthy, strong and aligned and the muscles supple. Muscles are massages in many of the postures. Balancing poses improve focus and concentration e.g. tree pose and give grace. They awaken creativity and tune the mind. Yoga helps regulate weight in this era of fast food and growing rates of obesity and diabetes in children.
All the parts of your body are connected, with each bit affecting the next. The healthy spine is able to lengthen and move in different directions – forwards, backwards, sideways and twisting while keeping straight at the same time. The feet are the root of standing movements and are shock absorbers and need to be strong, firm, flexible and arched. Your shoulders are the most mobile joints in the body and relaxed shoulders means your arms can move freely in all directions.
The hips are boy and socket joints and are also weigh-bearing joints. The main movement in the legs comes from the hips. Knees are hinge joints and should straighten fully. Gravity is an important factor in movement with the body grounded to the earth allowing one to have good posture. The breathe helps you to stretch and elongate and it is important to always breathe out as you go into a pose.
There are different types of poses – sitting, floor, standing, relaxation. Here is an example of each type of pose.
Sitting Pose – Lion Pose
Sit on the heels in Rock Pose (sitting on your knees) with the hands wide open either on the knees or in front of the knees on the floor. Ensure that the spine is straight and head is up with neck straight. Breathe in through the nose, and then stick out the tongue as far out as you can and roar like a lion. Do 5 to 10 repetitions.
Benefits: It releases tension in the chest and face.
Floor Pose – Cat Cow
Cats are agile, graceful and flexible and know how to get plenty of rest and cows know how to move with balance and strength.
Kneel on all four with palms of your hands flat on the floor, shoulder width apart. As you push your back towards the ground and bring your head up, moo like a cow and as you arch your back and bring your head down, meow like a cat. Feel flexible like a cat and strong like a cow. Do 10 to 15 repetitions. Complete by breathing in with head up, back pushed towards the ground and breathing out with head down, back arched. Relax in baby pose.
Benefits: It adjusts every vertebrae in the spine and neck. It creates a more flexible spine.
Standing Pose– Tree Pose
Stand straight like Mountain pose; bring your right foot up, place it high on the inside of your left thigh. Feel like a tree in nature, your left foot standing strong in the earth and roots down into the ground. Now bring your palms together and rasie your arms above your head like tree branches. Breathe in and out throughout the exercise. Bring the right foot and arms down. Repeat the pose on your right leg.
Benefits: It improves balance, coordination and mental focus
Relaxation Pose – Baby Pose
Sit on your heals. Bring your forehead to the ground and arms by your side. Relax in this position, feel right at home, like a baby. Breathe in and out deeply. Continue for 3 to 5 minutes.
Benefits: It gently relaxes and stretches the spine. Compresses the pelvic area, relieving gas; therefore good for Vata types.