In the past two decades, Yoga has made great strides in the Western world and more people, both young and old, are taking up this life-changing practice. Yoga is no longer stereotyped as a New Age cult, nor something that stoned hippies do, instead, it’s now embraced for its therapeutic properties for both physical and mental health.
However, there are few men, in comparison to the number of women, who practise Yoga in the West. It’s interesting to note in India (a few hundred years ago) it was the men who took up the physical practice of Yoga and the women who attached to the meditative aspects. Centuries later and it’s the women in the West who have jumped on the Yoga bandwagon and they are strengthening and stretching in studios and gyms on every corner as well as practising meditation and Pranayama breathing techniques.
As a primary school teacher, I’ve had the opportunity to lead Yoga sessions during Sport time. Hands down, everyone wants to do it. From the bumbling Kindergarteners to the Year 6 tweens, behaviour seems to be at its best during a Yoga session and all children participate. What I SEE are attentive children learning to link their breath to the sequence of poses, striving to pattern my movements and move their bodies in synchronicity. What I HEAR is quite different. The girls, who traditionally take ballet or gymnastics, often see Yoga as an extension of their dance classes so they are comfortable and confident in class and talk about how much fun they’re having. The boys however, will comment on what they perceive as lack of flexibility such as the inability to touch their toes or relax into a hip-opening pose. Don’t get me wrong, their effort is 100% spot on, but it saddens me to hear the defeated language. Naturally, they see Yoga as a physical challenge and they most likely don’t realise they are also practising stillness and quieting of the mind.
If you have a son, encourage him to give Yoga a try and talk to your local school about offering weekly Yoga sessions for the children. There are children’s workshops at local studios and plenty of Yoga instructors (including me) who offer classes to all age levels.
Do you have an experience sharing Yoga with children? Feel free to share and write a comment below.