Raising Calm Kids in a Hasty World
Author: Hassna’a Mukhtar I Arab News
Tuesday 16 June 2009
TODAY’S fast-paced lifestyle presents particular challenges to children’s emotional health and equilibrium. Whether it is concern about video games, the hundreds of satellite channels or Internet content, the child’s wellbeing is a year-round issue.
But to get the child to calm down and find inner peace, what is a parent to do?
Have them learn yoga, said Alicia Ali, founder of Your True Nature, an organization that provides holistic services and education. Eighteen months ago, Alicia went for a Hatha Yoga course for children in Canada. Hatha Yoga is a slow-paced stretching class with some simple breathing exercises and seated meditation.
“Today’s lifestyle and everything focuses on high activity. Nothing is really calming down the child,” said Alicia, a Canadian mother of two who has lived in Saudi Arabia for five years.
Advocates of children’s yoga believe that the 5,000-year-old practice can help improve concentration, flexibility, relaxation and even digestion. The slow, flowing motions not only build flexibility but take a lot of concentration and can help slow a young mind down.
Alicia said children are not used to sitting still and therefore it could be very difficult to get them to calm down. “It takes time. You do end up achieving it. It is not impossible,” said Alicia.
“When you get the child to experience it, you’ll find them more than willing to calm down and just keep quiet, focusing on themselves and their breath.”
Parents spending quality time with their children is very important. Yoga is a fun way to get involved with the kids actively and pleasurably. “Parents don’t do that nowadays. In classes, I teach children the basics. I do my part, but the parents also have to do their part,” said Alicia.
Yoga does not only benefit the child’s tranquility, but it also helps the child become more focused and calmer in his religious practices. “Religious parents are always concerned with getting the child to pray and do all the exterior stuff,” said Alicia.
Seeing many children fiddle a lot in prayers, Alicia said when a child is accustomed to practicing yoga, meditation and relaxation techniques then the child’s internal state brings more awareness into these religions practices.
“I personally think that yoga is complementary to practicing our Islam,” said Alicia.
Alicia said many here who opposed yoga because they view it as idolatry (shirk) or an attempt to alter and innovate Islamic rites (known as bid’a) do not understand that yoga has nothing to do with religious worship.
“When one believes that by practicing yoga you’re importing other beliefs, it is a total misconception. Yoga is not meant to be a religion or a replacement of religion,” she said.
Yoga programs for children could be designed at their convenience. Alicia said that she does not have a center, but she is willing to work with people on a private level and even work with schools.
“The program includes poses that are child-friendly. Our goal is not to turn children into expert yogis. We want them to enjoy it, have fun and also learn about their body,” she said.
It is preferable that children practice yoga for 30 minutes per session and take two classes per week. Alicia works with boys and girls starting at the age of five and takes only girls till the age of 14.
A normal class with children would start with an intro on what is yoga. Alicia asks them what they think yoga is and she answers their questions. Then she introduces them to a relaxation pose.
“I wouldn’t go more than two poses a class,” she said. Alicia feels it is very important to focus on kids because they are the society’s most important members. “They will be the future so we better start from scratch,” she said.
In America, families do yoga together on the beach. “We have the corniche and my goal is that one day we could have just once a month fun yoga event by the beach side in Jeddah. Why not?” said Alicia.
Alicia said she does not expect all people to jump on the Yoga wagon. “It is a way of thinking and living. It all depends on people’s mentality,” said Alicia.
For those who are willing to consider new ideas, please contact Alicia at: firstname.lastname@example.org.