Children and yoga: it seems like a difficult relationship to make work. But in fact, the Indian discipline is the panacea to cure the problems of hyperativity, restlessness or lack of attention. Journalist and yoga teacher Francesca Senette explains: ‘It is precisely because our children today are hyperactive, distracted, unfocussed and often superficial that yoga can be a great help for them. It’s a challenge in the beginning, of course, but this is why, especially with the youngest, we take a fun but slow approach. If mother and teacher are able to make yoga stimulating and not boring for them, they will develop discipline, attention and peace.’
How did it start, this idea of yoga for the youngest?
In reality, it is a practice that children have followed in India for centuries. When Yogananda (an Indian philosopher and mystic and populariser of the sacred knowledge of Kriyā Yoga) went to the United States in the 1930s he had already anticipated that its introduction to western schools would be of great benefit to children. In my particular case, it was when my passion for the practice encountered Dea Junior, the children’s television network of De Agostini which was broadcasting a yoga programme. I started to work with the teacher Renata Centi as a mother who practises yoga; soon I had a teaching qualification and, having seen the success of our work, we co-authored Yoga Box, a book that explains the discipline to children via cards which illustrate the Asana, the yoga positions.
At what age can your child start practising yoga?
It depends on what you mean by ‘practise’. If you mean beginning to explore the Asana by staying seated on a mat, in silence, and stretching out with the hands on the stomach in order to feel their breathing, then they can start as young as one-and-a-half years old. They then take a path that gradually leads from sitting in silence, listening to their breathing and holding their position to arrive, sometime during their primary school years, at lessons which are essentially the same for adults.
How can practising yoga benefit a child?
Yoga has many benefits, some of them genuinely curative. It has been proven that yoga induces a sense of deep relaxation and thus hones the nervous system, alleviates stress and regulates the sleep pattern, improves concentration and therefore school results. It also benefits one’s sense of self-awareness, of who I am and how my body is made. Moreover, a child can immediately begin to use the tools that yoga equips them with, which helps to prevent the difficulties that appear in adult life from becoming chronic.