Yoga has gained a wide popularity in Lebanese gyms and studios in the past few years. Signing your kid up for a Saturday yoga class comes with a wealth of mind-body benefits. In fact, studies have shown that yoga helps build strength and flexibility, reduces the risk factors of developing certain diseases, improves stress management, lowers levels of fear and anxiety, and advances work efficiency, time on tasks, memory, focus and concentration (Hopkins, 1979; Telles, 1997; Rozman, 1988; Manjunath & Telles, 2004; Parshad, 2004; Peck et al., 2005). The gains are too many, especially for children with learning disabilities.
etcetera spoke to Lulia Turk, Yoga Teacher, founder of The Yoga Federation and host to the Adults and Kids Yoga Teacher Certification in Lebanon, and she had a lot to say about the importance of Yoga for children and how it could be practiced as a healthy sport that impacts their whole lifestyle.
Yoga Is Like no Other Sport
While adult yoga would mostly consist of setting up your mattress and engaging in poses for stretching, flexibility, and strength, a kids yoga class is meant to make these same poses fun for the young students through a friendly approach. This could mean using animal sounds and names to describe certain poses. “Yoga for kids is geared toward keeping a child’s interest and attention, while an adult class moves slower and would delve more into the philosophical aspects of each pose”, Lulia draws the distinction.
In contrast to other sports classes that have endless rules, which the child must conform to, in kids’ yoga class the child must not be limited in any way. “On the contrary, we empower a child and allow them to explore their body without judgment or competition. “We try to get them to be more free within themselves and explore what they like to do”, Lulia explains.
A teacher must have no expectations or hopes of a child being as completely focused in a yoga class as an adult. They ought to learn to interact with students in a positive way, even though the child might want to get up mid-class and go for a bathroom break or simply walk around and not pay attention. “As teachers, we have to show the kids by example, and believe that they are learning even if they are not on their mats. We have to make them feel that this class is not an obligation, but a choice”, points out Lulia.
Benefits of Yoga for Children
“Yoga is beneficial for everything!” Lulia confidently states, “Not because we turn children into calm adults; we want them to be themselves while learning the skills to have control over excessive activity”.
If parents attend the classes, they can observe the interaction taking place between the teacher and the children as well: “For me, teaching kids is actually about teaching adults how to perceivetheirkids without judgment and finding a way of being with each other in a healthy manner” Lulia clarifies “It shows parents that they don’t always have to step in,control the situation, and tell the child that they’re doing something wrong. It’s about letting the child do what they can do and watching the adult interact with that and be okay with it. This results in a judgment-free zone with fewer expectations and more living-in-the-moment!”
To add to that, the benefits range from strength, flexibility, coordination, breathing, and having control over one’s temper. “The biggest thing for me” Lulia reveals “is teaching children that they can breathe with awareness.” This helps in the ability to calm one’s self in a certain situation, especially when it involves social pressure. “If only everybody could be taught that as a child, it would really change things” Lulia verifies.
In a nutshell, yoga teaches kids to practice their patience and listening skills. “Kids start to acknowledge that it’s okay to be hyper, but there are certain times for it” Lulia adds, “It also disciplines a child’s ego and allows them to practice non-competitiveness, unlike every other sport with competition at its core”.
What About the Dangers?
“Personally, I’ve never had anyone injured in my yoga class” Lulia points out “But I have seen much damage done in yoga, especially with adults and not with children”. Due to their competitive nature, someadults may go into classes that are not meant for them, and might push past their limits simply because they want to prove to be better than their neighbor.
“Children don’t have this in their practice” Lulia explains, “Their bodies are much more malleable, and they are less prone to physical injury because their bones are softer”. Lulia assures: “When the teacher is properly trained to teach yoga, no injuries should take place in class”.
When Yoga Embraces Everyone
We’ve established that yoga enhances focus and the physical well being of children with regular needs, but what about children with learning disabilities? Might they benefit as well?
“Absolutely” Lulia assures us, “Yoga is a way of life, and it can access everybody: It has no age, race, or gender, and it could definitely be practiced by someone with a learning disability”.
“Children with ADHD for instance simply have more energy and really haven’t been given the skillset to handle this energy in a productive way” Lulia adds. Studies suggest that yoga may serve as a complementary treatment for these children who are already stabilized on medication (Harrison et al., 2004; Jensen & Kenny, 2004).Lulia, however, contends to the idea of medication and instead suggests that: “Medication is a Band-Aid. Yoga, on the other hand, gives them the skills to use what they are born with to the best of their ability without being judged.”
“The coordination of the left side with the right side that is practiced in the poses is helpful for training the brain to differentiate and work with both sides equally” Lulia explains, “Yoga would help in coping with frustration that might come up from dyslexia, and it would certainly encourage and reinforce how different each and every child is.”
- Physical Disabilities
Yoga even seems to include children with physical disabilities as well! “I have a student that’s in a wheelchair” Lulia recalls, “We have to remove the label or image that yoga is just physical, and that it means being in a gym, doing poses and looking elegant. It’s not just about this.”
“Yoga is a way of life and a way of being with yourself and others in the present moment” Lulia emphasizes, “It is about being in your true nature, and anybody could practice that”.
Lulia Turk is an American-Lebanese whospread yoga throughout Beirut in the gyms back in 2002. She owns a studio and teaches yoga full-time. In 2012, she created the Yoga Federation of Lebanon and was appointed president. Lulia hosts 200-hour certification programs for people to become yoga teachers, and she also hostskids yoga trainings for people to learn how to teach kids yoga
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- My young daughter has discovered the Internet and now spends a lot of time browsing websites and social media networks. How can I monitor her online activity and ensure that she remains safe?
Protecting our kids from the darker side of the Internet has never been more important or more difficult. Dealing with this problem is an evolving process. For kids younger than 10, you can set and impose limits on the amount of time spent online. You can also restrict access to mobile devices connected to the Internet and only allow your child to use them in the family room where you can supervise rather than in the privacy of their bedroom. Explain to your child that she should not give out personal identifying information (real name, home address, school name and address, parents’ names, pictures) to anyone she does not personally know. Repeat this lesson until your child can recite it in her sleep. You also have options that allow you to control for the most part what your child can see online. For example, iPads have parental controls and content filtering software that you can enable. Browsers also allow you to block certain websites. You have to make the constant effort to familiarize yourself with those options or enlist the help of a proficient friend or family member. It’s also preferable not to allow your children to register for social media accounts until they reach the age of 13.
For teenagers, however, open and honest communication is the key to ensuring online safety. At this age, kids are Internet veterans and will often know the Internet much better than you do. Yet, they don’t have your caution or experience. It’s more effective to discuss potential scenarios with your child. Explain that anything he or she posts online will stay online forever and can impact her future choice of university or career. Explain that the internet does NOT give anonymity. Discuss online bullying and posting hurtful comments (remember that your teen may be encouraged to bully others online). Explain the dangers of speaking to and sharing personal information with strangers. It’s never too late to enforce boundaries. If you are worried, you can ask your teenager for access to their social media accounts and inform them that you will be checking in. Do not do this behind their backs. There are many resources online that can help you keep your kid safe.
- I read a lot about the benefits of learning how to play a musical instrument. But how can I pick an instrument for my kid to start playing?
A child will reap the benefits of musical training regardless of what musical instrument he or she is playing. However, choosing the right instrument for your child and for your family environment remains important. Forcing children to learn instruments they have no interest in will not foster a love of music and might cause the child to resent having to practice. However, you also don’t want him or her to choose an instrument that does not suit your family. For example, if as a parent you do not like the sound of the electric guitar, you will not be able to support your child or endure the hours of practice he or she needs to put in. Parents also need to like the sound of the instrument their child is playing. Take into account your child’s body type and make sure he picks an instrument he is comfortable holding and carrying. Also, make sure your child’s choice is not affected by any perceived “social value” of an instrument. For younger kids (4-6) you can’t go wrong with the keyboard or piano as those instruments provide a great foundation and children can easily transition to other instruments later if they would like to. Violin is also a good option as it comes in scaled sizes, but it requires more patience and persistence. Another thing to take into account is your child’s personality type. High energy kids can get great stress relief from playing the drums, and outgoing personalities may prefer instruments such as the saxophone or trumpet. The most important consideration, however, remains your child’s personal preference and passion as those are the biggest guarantees that he or she will stick with the instrument long enough to earn the life-long benefits.