YOGA FOR ALL AGE GROUPS

CHILDREN
Naturally any teaching must require certain modification and a selection of techniques that are most appropriate for the benefit of students of any age group and the practices of the traditional disciplines of Yoga are no exception.
For ease in teaching it is desirable for students to be grouped according to age as in other educational systems. This may be ideal but is not always possible and requires a certain number of students for this type of segregation. Separation of boys and girls in early years of say 3 years to 7 years is not usually necessary. Beyond this age is different.
Although general classes of children of various ages may be established, students will not be completely at ease unless with others of about the same age and it is worthwhile to consider a small nucleus class that will in time increase.

The teaching of Hatha Yoga is based upon the complementary character and interaction of electro-magnetic energies of nature that influence and maintain a balance in our physical and psychological health. The understanding of the pranas or positive and negative energies is fundamental in the philosophy and the practices related to the breath.

We all exist and function through the balancing of these natural forces and their natural expression through either male or female personalities, with the male to have the positive of Sun energies dominant and the female having the opposite Moon energies uppermost. In a subtle way these energies function by subconscious processes. In a more direct way, they are affected by our minds and state of consciousness.

It is as important for a boy to have an image of what he would wish to become in developing his manhood. Apart from his father as a role model, he needs to develop his own self image for the future – one based upon the warmth, strength, generosity and outgoing power that has the Sun as its symbol. Just as important it is that a girl follows the example of her mother as well as learning to develop the female virtues of gentleness, grace and sensitivity of an ideal woman symbolised by the Moon. This symbolism provides anchorage for establishing their values and influencing their behaviour.

The physical exercises in Hatha Yoga for boys are aimed at developing strength and will as those for girls concentrates upon flexibility and graceful movement. Both must learn the general exercises of traditional movements that develop full freedom of movement as well as muscular tone.
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TEENAGE YEARS
Teenagers , that is those from 13 – 17 years of age, have already been influenced by their home life, school life and the example of their peers to the extent that they often are so confident as to not be easily receptive to new ideas and will be more focussed upon the physical cultural aspects at commencement of their classes. However, by the wonderful benefits of relaxation practice they learn to release stress. By stillness of the mind and body in easy meditation they find the key to better concentration and discover a sense of their individual power to direct their lives and perhaps discover an increasing interest in philosophy.
Because of the importance of self discovery and self interest, it is relatively easy to introduce young students to the value of natural diet and consideration of avoiding killing of animals for food but it is not wise to emphasise the latter because of the necessity to respect their parents and the values in their home as not many homes have kitchens that are vegetarian.
There will be a natural inclination towards eating food that will build good health and a fine physique or a beautiful body and vanity helps sometimes to undertake what seems a difficult discipline or motivation toward changing habits.
These years however are of extreme importance in developing the intellectual powers and learning memory skills, exercising imagination and strengthening powers of concentration.
How to help these faculties is the demand made upon the yoga teacher who uses the time honoured techniques of classical Yoga.
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Yoga Students – Age

Children as young as age 3 derive benefit from attending classes of limited numbers,  preferably of the same age,  or together with a sibling of near age.

Teachers are specially trained in the adaptation of yoga for infants and usually have developed their own style of teaching that is safe, appropriate for the different age group up to teens.

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Ahimsa for Children

The principles inherent in Yoga are gradually being incorporated in general training programmes and business management and will in time enrich all education by total awareness and training of each individual who chooses to accept personal responsibility.

The qualified yoga teacher offers children a vital system of education complementary to the existent system in schools. It teaches a practical way of building total health of mind and body.

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Posture is an Attitude

Any assumed attitude of mind will be reflected in an obvious, or a subtle corresponding attitude of the body. This is now a well known fact.  The relationship has been known and utilized for centuries and applied in the traditional art of self development by those who adhere to the teachings and practices of Yoga. This system utilizes physical poses to help the mind, and applies mental attitudes to help the body.

Although there is a highly developed system based upon 84 classical yoga Asanas, as they are called, the simplest practice is fundamental.  It is called Tadasana and represents the erect, upright mind and character, the confident individual whom we aspire to become. There is an associated physical discipline and muscular effort involved in standing upright, walking tall and sitting without slumping.

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Children and Yoga

Yoga teachers who specialize in adapting the philosophy and practices of the yogic teachings apply a balanced method of education with its foundation in ancient wisdom and with its techniques and application adapted to embrace modern health practices.

Parents benefit in several ways by having children disciplined through Yoga classes that encourage learning and application of sound, balanced knowledge and health education that complements their schooling. Well disciplined children become more amenable and co-operative as they benefit from clear guidelines. Parents benefit also as children improve in behaviour, politeness and respect that allows more productive and satisfying relationships with all members of the family.

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Yoga Helps Hyper-Active Children

Interest in drugless methods and encouragement towards natural remedies draws many parents to consider sending their children to yoga classes if they can be assured of the professional specialization of the teacher.

Yoga techniques are generally for the application by adults in seeking a complete method of self culture. The teaching methods therefore must be adapted in order that children can benefit and this requires skill. However, in spite of some difficulty often encountered when seeking such a teacher, general yoga classes offer basic relaxation techniques and gentle exercises that will help a child who is in need of slowing down, learning to enjoy being still, and also in becoming aware of the part that breath control has in disciplines of self control.

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How to Breathe

Because respiration is normally an unconcious function, it takes a concerted effort towards gaining conscious control over the process.

Tutoring ideally begins in helping children to understand the basic muscular controls that are associated with breathing and as adults, revise what we may already know in gaining control of the intercostal muscles, abdominal muscles and upper torso.

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Primary Postural Control

The fundamental natural, upright posture is important for us all to realise as being required for the comfort and function of the complex physiological processes that we tend to take for granted when we are experiencing good health.

This is the first training for a yoga student, before attempting the many variations of the classical yoga Asanas.

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Teaching Children Yoga

Many parents who practise the physical disciplines of Yoga are able to pass on appropriate health benefits to their children by helping them to understand natural health principles and so encourage their co-operation. Building better health of course begins under direction of the parents but the practical skills and benefits are usually readily experienced, to serve as an encouragement to young ones.

Yoga teachers who have been trained to understand the modifications and cautions that accompany the health practices that were first designed for adult application are able to train and inspire children to take a positive life approach.

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Yoga for Children

The philosophy and practices of classical Yoga are for application by adults and it can be anticipated that parents practising Yoga will naturally transmit appropriate information to their children.

However as Yoga offers a total education ranging from physical culture to mind training and spiritual awareness it is understandable that there are many aspects which can be contributed by the professional Yoga teacher and used to complement the demands of present educational systems.

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