Integral Yoga Hatha Class For Children (ages 4-12)

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Integral Yoga Standard Class:

The poses in this section form the basis of the Integral Yoga Hatha practice. They are recommended for daily practice as they offer the maximum health benefits in the minimum amount of poses.
Having a basic sequence to follow gives a firm foundation to the Hatha Yoga practice. The children will become very familiar with these poses. The poses will be like old friends. Students will be able to observe their own progress in the basic poses as they grow. A known sequence is something one can always return to, like a favorite book or story. All other poses can be added to this sequence.

Children can be taught how to add poses to develop and maintain a balanced practice. They should be gradually taught the benefit of each pose, so as they grow they will understand when and how to use each pose in a personal routine. Developing a personal, regular daily Hatha Yoga practice is one of the great gifts in life.

“Prevention is better than cure,” says Swami Satchidananda. A regular Yoga practice begun at a young age will go a long way toward maintaining a healthy body and peaceful mind. There is a Tamil saying, “What is learned in the cradle, is taken to the grave.” It is never too early to begin practicing Yoga.

Basic Guidelines for Adapting the Integral Yoga Hatha 1 Class for Children

In guiding children to do the Hatha poses, gentleness and care are very important. Children’s bodies are still growing. Extra precautions are needed so that no strain occurs. Some poses from the adult class are omitted or modified because the spine is still developing. f they are unsteady in a pose, it’s best for them to come out, rest, and go on to another. If an asana cannot be held as long as is normally done, they can repeat it several times and gradually build up strength and steadiness in the pose.

The following guidelines are based on the format of a standard Integral Yoga Hatha I class. They are intended for children under twelve years of age. After age 12 or the onset of puberty, children can generally do the regular Hatha I class. In addition to these guidelines, if you observe how your children feel in the poses and make any necessary adaptations, you should be able to develop a very beneficial and enjoyable routine. The main guideline in teaching Hatha Yoga to children is exactly what Sri Patanjali gives in the Yoga Sutras. “A pose means one that gives steadiness and comfort. So the Yoga asanas should be practiced with the utmost ease and comfort.” (Swami Satchidananda, Integral Yoga Hatha)
By inspiration, through your own example, and guiding your young ones to do these practices, you will be giving them a very great gift—a strong foundation for their future health and happiness. Please refer to Hatha Yoga: For Kids, By Kids from Integral Yoga Publications for more information on Hatha Yoga for children.

1.    Chanting or singing: children naturally love to sing and chant. Vary the practice depending on the setting of your class and age of the students.

2.    Eye Movements: In a large group (over 5-6 children) it is not recommended to teach the eye movements as they are more subtle and deal with very delicate muscles. Children may not have enough control over the eye muscles and could strain the eyes. They may be distracted and become restless. In one-on-one settings or small groups, the eye movements may be taught very gently as instructed in the teacher-training manual.

3.    Sun Salutation can be modified as follows depending on the ability of the group:
•    Positions 2 & 11: Do not bend back; just stretch straight up
•    Positions 5 & 8: Could come down onto all fours instead of the inverted V position ( Downward Facing Dog Pose)
•    Position 6: Optional Modification: Lie flat on floor, do not raise buttocks

4.    Cobra Pose is the same.

5.    Half-Locust & Locust Pose are the same.

6.    Bow Pose can be done, but for a shorter time. They can gently rock in the pose to massage the abdominal organs.

7.    Forward Bending Poses ( Head-to-Knee and the full Forward Bend) are the same.

8.    Shoulder Stand can be done, but for a shorter time. Children have less concentration and coordination and could strain if they hold the pose too long. They should come out of the pose as smoothly as possible. Try to avoid falling out of the pose.

9.    Fish Pose is the same.

10.    Half Spinal Twist can be done gently or could be replaced by a twist in simple sitting pose.

11.    Optional Poses: There are many optional poses that can be done depending on the flexibility of the students.

12.    Balancing Poses should be included in every class. They are very beneficial and fun. Students should try to do them without jumping around. Focusing the eyes on a fixed point will help them to concentrate and find their balance.
13.    Standing Poses such as Triangle and Warrior are also very beneficial and can be included in all classes. You can consult Integral Yoga Hatha, the Optional Pose section of the teacher training manual, or other books on Hatha Yoga for more ideas and instruction in optional poses.

14.    The more difficult practices, such as Peacock Pose, Head Stand and Stomach Lift should be avoided.

15.   Yoga Mudra- is the same. (some children can easily do this in Lotus Pose)

16.    Yoga Nidra: Always include deep relaxation. Children of all ages will learn to enjoy it. You can go through all the stages in a shorter time, 5-10 minutes: physically tense and relax, mental body scan, bring awareness to breath, watch the thoughts of the mind, observe the peace within. Let the children experience the Silence. It is not necessary to fill every moment with talking. After waking up from deep relaxation is a good time to tell or read a Yogic story (refer to Enlightening Tales or other short stories with morals).

17.    Pranayama: The more gentle breathing techniques can be done. First deep breathing should be learned. This can be taught both from sitting and lying on the back. Kapalabhati can be done gently with only a few expulsions. Nadi Suddhi, alternate nostril breathing, can be taught if there is the interest and focus. If there is difficulty forming the Vishnu Mudra, they can use the thumb and index finger, or anything that is easy. There should never be any retention with any Pranayama for children.

18.    Brahmari: Children can also do the humming breath, which they will love. You can include the mudra also.

19.    Sitali and Sitkari: The cooling breaths may be practiced with no retention.

20.    Meditation: Include a brief time of silent meditation. You can watch the children to see how long is comfortable for them. Children can be taught simple meditation techniques like mantra repetition or following the breath.

21.    Closing peace chants or songs to end the session.

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