Sunday, 31 July 2011

Food Is Fuel: What Are You Running On?

Although a growing number of people nowadays are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of eating a healthy diet, with the saying "you are what you eat" now a common phrase that more of us are beginning to understand and appreciate, ask anyone to tell you the first thing that comes to their mind when you say the word food and you will get many different responses such as delicious, yummy, chocolate, steak, hungry, fattening, etc. When you look at all of these responses, they typically indicate a mindset toward food that the individual who gave the response has. In order maintain a healthy and efficiently working body, it is important that the right mindset is held. Having a "food is fuel" mindset is one that will help you on your way to creating healthy eating habits.

For some people eating a healthy diet conjures up images of unsubstantial meals consisting of lettuce and seeds, jokingly referred to as "rabbit food", whilst for others eating healthily means filling their body with a variety of colourful and natural foods that provide energy and goodness and protect against disease. 

If you go back to caveman times, the reason for people to go out and get food was always because they were hungry. Cavemen ate in order to survive. The people of these times were never obese and always physically active. Eating happened in this manner probably for two reasons: one was that they didn't have all of the great recipes, spices and cooking techniques to really give their food great flavour. The other I'm sure is because; hunting could have meant certain death especially in the instance where the hunter becomes the hunted. 
These days though, in many cultures, we are at the top of the food chain and somewhere along the way we found out that adding seasoning like salt and pepper to our meat really makes it taste good. And people who know how to add certain ingredients together can really make one great tasting meal. And let’s not forget the great taste of a good bar of chocolate…
There’s nothing wrong with having a delicious tasting meal or snack. It is one of the many benefits of living in a society that is filled with some very talented chefs! However, something has changed in the way that we eat. Instead of remembering the main purpose of food in our lives, we've turned eating into an art! No longer do we eat only when we are hungry and until we are satisfied to simply give our engines (bodies) fuel that it needs. We eat until we stuff ourselves, feeding our taste buds instead of fueling the engine. We fill our stomachs up to the very top until we are uncomfortable or miserable in our gluttony. This results in actually slowing the engine down and preventing it from working to its maximum potential. Doing these things on a continual basis causes us to gain weight, sometimes excessively, in the form of fat and this can bring with it many other, more complicated problems.

Today, obesity is a problem in a large number of countries particularly in the Western world. Since the 1980's the number of obese people in the UK has tripled and today almost 60% of the population are either fat or obese. Even more worrying are the growing numbers of obese children in our society, as the majority of these children will grow up to be obese adults. 

Obesity is caused, by an inactive lifestyle coupled with unhealthy eating patterns. More and more fast-food restaurants open and ready-made meals and unhealthy snacks fill our supermarket shelves as our society rapidly grows in size, waist size.
As a large number of people are experiencing today, being overweight brings many problems, not only health problems but also emotional issues. Overweight people are at a much higher risk of suffering some form of illness at some point in their life, usually a lot sooner than they expect. Health problems can range from backache, shortness of breath, type-II diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and more recently studies have linked a poor diet to certain forms of cancer.

Not only this but many overweight people, children in particular, may be teased and bullied, which could lead to depression and low self-esteem. To make themselves feel better, they will turn to food for comfort and thus be stuck in a vicious cycle.

Even though a lot of people who do not eat healthily are not fat, they would still experience other effects of eating a poor diet. This could include rotting teeth from eating too many sugary sweets and drinks, mood swings, headaches, tiredness and lethargy, constipation, poor concentration, dull hair, skin and nails, osteoporosis, insomnia, and heart disease due to high levels of cholesterol in the blood amongst others.
 Heart disease today is the most common single cause of death in our society. Many of these deaths could be prevented solely by a change of diet and an increase in exercise.

The way we should fuel our bodies can be related in some ways to fueling a car. You put petrol in it to run, oil to lubricate engine parts and other things for optimal performance. You don't overfill the tank or use harmful substances. Now consider your body, and all of the systems or parts within it, cardiovascular, skeletal, muscular, and respiratory.  What fuel do these systems need to run efficiently and effectively? Is how you are fueling, and the fuel you're using, in your body's engine allowing for the same optimal performance? 
If you are looking to lose weight for example, the number one factor is controlling your eating habits. Start looking at why you eat, what you eat. Determine your reason for the meals you choose and when you are eating. 

Food should be enjoyed. Great tasting food is one of the blessings in life. However, food has always been fuel for the body. Not something to be eaten solely based on taste or due to boredom. As the saying goes, "everything in moderation." 

When you start applying the "food is fuel" mindset you'll find that your eating habits will change. You won't eat as much and you won't eat the same kinds of food. You'll also find that when you improve on the fuel you consume your body's performance, including your health, stamina and energy levels will improve as well. 

Begin applying this and watch as healthy eating habits become your new way of life.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Asanas for Meditation

There are six essential seated asanas for beginners to learn specifically for the purpose of meditation. Below is a listing of them as well as detailed information on their influence on the body and mind.

Dhyan Mudra (meditation gesture) - begin seated in full lotus position (Padmasana, see below). Place the palms on the knees, wrists facing upward, and palms open. The tips of the thumb and index finger are touching on both hands, forming a circle. The remaining three fingers of each hand should remain relaxed. This is the position of Dhyana Mudra. This mudra is the mudra of meditation. It helps the mind to concentrate on attaining spiritual perfection. As told from the Indian tradition, it is said that Buddha used this mudra when he was sitting under the Boddhi tree. It instills tranquility of mind, rest of the senses and balance of the thoughts, something all beginners to meditation can use.

Swastikasana (Auspicious pose) the legs take the shape of a swastika in this asana. For those of Western decent, this has nothing to do with the swastikas, which we associate (and understandably) with Hitler and the Third Reich. This is a very ancient symbol, however, used throughout India and other Eastern Countries. This symbol has as much significance as the sound ‘OM’. The Hindus use the swastika not as a syllable or letter but as a character in the shape of a cross. Its ‘branches’ bend at right angles to face the four directions. It symbolizes the Brahman or Absolute Truth. It is unfortunate that Hitler used the symbol to perpetuate such an opposite truth, but the word is actually derived from the Sanskrit, from Su meaning good and Asati meaning to exist. Take this position by spreading the legs approximately one to one and a half feet. Bend the left leg in the knee and place the soul of the foot to touch the inner side of the right thigh. Then bend the right leg and place the right foot in between the thigh and the calf of the leg. Rest each wrist on the same knee (left wrist on left knee, right wrist on right knee) in Dhyana Mudra. Breathe deeply.

Samasana (Balance pose) - In this asana the external organs of the body are kept divided in to two, hence the name which in Sanskrit (‘sama’) means equilibrium. Begin by spreading the legs approximately one to one and a half feet. Bend the left leg and place the heel against the procreating organ (in men the testes, in women the vaginal lips). Bend the right leg and place the heel of that foot against the left leg. The hands rest in Dhyanan Mudra. This asana resembles lotus except that the feet are placed differently in order to instigate the genital lock.
Chris (my other half) in Padmasana
Padmasana (Lotus pose) - Padma means lotus in Sanskrit. Your legs will mimic the blooming lotus. The asana has great importance in the Yogashastra. It is believed it is one of the best asanas for Pranayam, Meditation & concentration. Practice Padmasana by spreading both the legs a distance of 1 to 1.5 feet. Bend the left leg and place the left toe on the right thigh, leaving the heel on the groin of the left leg. Then bend the right leg and place the right toe on the left thigh and the heel on the groin of the right leg. Bring the hands into Dyhana Mudra.  This can be difficult for beginners to meditation, but work on it over time.

Padmasana Baddha (Tied lotus) is practiced the same way as regular lotus position, only the hands are crossed behind the back and the opposite toe is grasped with the opposite hand, opening the chest and creating a ‘tie’ with the body. (The left hand should grasp the right tow by reaching around the back and to the side, grabbing the toe at waist level and the right hand should do the same on the opposite side of the body.) In this position the pranic force is redirected continuously back into the body instead of escaping from the hands.

Padmasana Utthit (Lifted lotus) is practiced in a similar manner as regular lotus position with an emphasis on strength. The arms are placed on either side of the buttocks, instead of in Dhyana Mudra, and the entire lower body is lifted off the floor by pressing against the hands. The abdominal muscles must be used as well as all the strength of the upper body. Although not ideal for meditation, due to the asana’s difficulty, this is an excellent pose to challenge the arms and self-determination.
The above listed seated postures are all ideal for practicing mediation as they offer specific physiological benefits to the practitioner. The spine is erect which makes the body in an ideal position for many functions within it to go on normally as we work at being able to sit for up to three hours at a time in meditation. Balance is maintained in the heart, lungs, and digestive organs. Because the organs are positioned in a proper way, optimal functioning can occur. The gravity and anti-gravity muscles remove the weight-bearing load from the legs since they form a triangular base to support the weight of the body. Once the eyes are closed, one does not have to worry about loosing their balance since they are firmly rooted to the floor with the sit bones. The abdominal muscles, diaphragm and all the muscles of the chest endure less stress.
Less carbon dioxide is produced by the body because breathing is continuous and the diaphragm and ribs are moving very slightly. This also reduces stress on the nervous system for beginners and advanced meditators alike, freeing up energy in the body. The mind is able to stay alert and is less likely to fall asleep in these positions, as compared to Savasana, or corpse pose, for example. The pelvic region of the body receives a rich supply of blood, which results in the toning of sacral and coccygeal nerves. Blood from the legs can easily reach the heart reducing the effort of the lungs and respiratory system.
Although the benefits are numerous, these positions should be practiced with an awareness of the knees, as they can become fatigued and sore if the body is not used to sitting in this way. Also, the lower back can become fatigued if proper posture has not been maintained for a long duration before. 

It may take time for the beginner to allow the body to become comfortable in these positions, but their benefits for sustaining meditation is great.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Have You Tried Meditation?

In a competitive world where hectic activities, achievements and results rule the roost and individuals experience extreme stress while they exert themselves to register victories in various endeavors, meditation can be the balancing block for our hectic lives. To restore the body to a state of calmness, meditation is an ideal tool and there are many benefits to meditation that work to the advantage of individuals. For the individual who craves to possess inner peace, silence, and to have moments of reflection, medication provides the right answer.

Meditation is considered the best tool to reduce stress and it helps individuals conquer worries that plague them day in and day out. In allowing an individual to get tuned with their inner self, meditation can lead to happiness, where the practitioner finds their own peace of mind. Meditation also makes an individual realise that happiness is not born out of external circumstances, as it is the inner attitude of an individual that the paves the way to happiness. Regular practitioners are sure to find the way to greater emotional equilibrium. 

Meditation is a robust tool to enhance self-control and confidence of a practitioner. By embracing it, the practitioner is sure to benefit from increased concentration powers as they also develop a greater potential to control their thoughts. 

Individuals who are prone to negative feelings find it difficult to exercise control over their thoughts. They should look for ways and means to put an end to all negative thoughts and with the art of meditation, the practitioner gets equipped with a powerful tool to control thoughts that often wreck havoc on their health. The benefits of meditation also come in various other forms, helping to lower oxygen consumption and enhancing blood flow of the individual.

A practitioner who gets in to the habit of meditation can find various changes within themselves, as their self-confidence increases leaps and bounds. Individuals also find it to be a powerful tool that increases the serotonin levels, influencing mood as well as behavior. To excel in any field, an individual should have good concentration powers to help realise their potential. An individual has to apply their attention to the task that is at hand to emerge victorious in all their endeavors. When they take up meditation, their focus and concentration levels go up, helping to better perform various tasks.

Spending energy brooding over past activities and worrying about future endeavors can produce doubts pertaining to creativity and spontaneity in the minds of individuals. With meditation as the tool, a practitioner masters the silencing of the mind, which serves to increase the potential of an individual. 

Meditation also enhances the immune system, adds strength, energy and vigor to an individual, as well as aiding the practitioner to find answers to various queries that haunt them for a long time.

To say that the benefits of meditation even for beginner practitioners are many would be an understatement. In my opinion, the benefits are absolutely unquantifiable and meditation should be practiced by everyone of all ages and from all cultures.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Developing a Positive Mental Attitude

Charles Swindoll said "The longer I live, the more I realise the impact of the attitude on life. Attitude to me, is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, or say, or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company...a church...a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string that we have and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes."

A positive mental attitude (PMA) is the ultimate attitude for creating a life of happiness. Those who choose to focus on the advantageous benefits that every situation creates, not only do they live happier lives but also are often more successful. 

I believe you can manifest success through a positive mental attitude, opting to concentrate on a positive attitude can change your outlook on life and increase the quality of all things in your being, be they relationships, choices or even just small everyday interactions. 

A PMA is not a quick fix or an easy answer as it requires a constant effort and reinforcement, especially for those for whom it doesn't come naturally, but the rewards in the form of a better lifestyle are well worth the persistence. 

Here are some tips to help you on your way to feeling more positive...

1)  The choice is yours

Your life is the product and result of your choices. You always have (and had) a choice. You can choose to let the current state of the economy bring you down or you can choose to look for opportunities in the face of adversity and challenge. Choose to focus your attention on what you can do and what you will achieve. The way you choose to see the world creates the world you see.

2)  Limit your time in front of the TV 

Instead read a positive book, start a project, pick up a new hobby, spend some quality time with your family, or do something that will enhance your life.  Manage your time around your highest priorities and values.

3)  Build the habit of using positive language

Listen to the words you use. Avoid words like 'always', 'never', 'can’t', 'won’t' and even 'why.' 
Say 'I choose' or 'I want', instead of 'I need' or 'I should' and notice the difference.

4)  Surround yourself with positive people

Surround yourself with people who have a positive influence in your life, people who speak the truth and support you.  Expand your circle of positive influence with people who are further ahead in personal and professional development than you are. Disassociate with negative people who impede your progress. 

5)  Develop a “Givers Gain" mentality

Give away what you seek without expectation or measuring. When you seek success, help others to be successful. When you seek happiness, help others to find happiness first.

6)  Invest in yourself

Listen to positive attitude CDs, invest in courses or workshops or attend personal development seminars.  Read books from people like Tony Robbins.  People who write about how you can and will, not why you can’t or won’t.

7)  Let go of anger, resentment and judgement

Hanging on to negative emotions like anger or resentment will drain your energy and hinders you from moving forward to create positive change in your life. The best way to let go of these emotions is to fully acknowledge the feelings associated with the initial negative experience. Honour those feelings and let them go as they no longer serve you, and replace them with something positive. You can still hold on to the lessons learned from the initial negative experience. 

8)  Create positive, realistic expectations and take action 

All too often people try to live up to the expectations of others, such as a parent, a manager or a significant other. Make sure your expectations are congruent with who you really are. You are what you believe, and you become what you expect.  Expect the best, and only the best, from life, from others, and from yourself. Take action on your expectations.

9) Stop believing in what you think is true and start believing in what you really want

Identify and let go of limiting beliefs that no longer support or honour you. Instead develop empowering beliefs that are aligned with your goals, values and your heart’s desire.

10) Take responsibility for your own life

Focus your attention on what you can control: your thoughts, your actions, your behavior, your emotional state and your daily actions and activities. You’re the captain of your own life and are solely responsible for the results and experiences you create. Taking ownership and responsibility for your own life is a freedom and tremendous privilege.

It all starts with your attitude.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

How to Be a Patient Mum

Life before baby: Long breakfast in bed; 90 minute yoga session; drinks and lunch with friends in town.
Life after baby: 5am wake-up call from sick one-year-old; post-nappy-explosion cleaning intensive; temper tantrum mediation in Tesco carpark; microwaved leftover dinner; glass of wine times two.
Let’s face it, life with kids is challenging. Yet you see those mums who seem to breeze through it all, unflappable. They have an annoyingly effortless way of seeming cool, collected, kind, peaceful and in control — even when surrounded by chaos.
That composed way of mothering isn’t out of reach for you: mums are borrowing techniques from practices like yoga meditation to boost their calm-mum powers.
Try these five tips and make being a calm mum look like child’s play.
1. Focus on right now
Kids can smell a rat when we pretend we’re present. Turn off your mobile and the radio when you’re in the car and use that time to connect with your child, she says. Try hanging a tag in your car that reads “Here, now” or “Just this moment.”
Or use the “awareness continuum". Simply ask yourself over and over ‘what am I aware of right now?’
This question can help mothers tap into what’s happening in their bodies, like clenching jaws or holding breath, as well as what’s happening around them, like the sky looks incredibly blue today.
2. Give kids some space
Your kids are the fish, and you create their aquarium. They need to be able to swim around. Look at how you might be “re-parenting” yourself, perhaps because of some shortcoming you perceive in the way your own mother parented you.
The more self-awareness a mum possesses, the less she will project her own struggles onto her children. It’s unhealthy to judge a child for traits that a mother possesses and denies in herself.
Accept your children’s individuality and separateness from you. Healthy attachment is slightly detached. It’s good to miss your kids.
Over-parenting is another non-calm-mum pattern to watch out for. One example: Feeling compelled to come immediately to your child’s aid the moment he or she whimpers.
With my first child, I interpreted her crying as bad but with my second, I came to realise there are plenty of reasons kids cry. Now I wait. I know that generally, things will be ok.
Being aware that things are always changing — including my mood — and knowing that it’s temporary helps cultivate calmness. A tantrum is going to pass, and that makes the moment more tolerable.
Try creating physical space in your home, too. For example, clear off the kitchen table every night and make it a sacred place for mealtime.
3. Simplify
Over-scheduling is a recipe for a short fuse. You don’t need to do it all every day.
Look at what you can “undo” in your day. Look at the week’s chores and decide: No hoovering this week! I don’t know anyone who’s died from a messy house or spending the day in their pajamas.
Or put aside your to-do list altogether (literally and mentally) on a Saturday for a while — even for just an hour. Choose one activity to do with your kids, and do it mindfully. Be childlike, really listen to your kids, and focus your attention on what you’re doing together.
Hold your plans lightly, too. It’s ok to acknowledge what you’re feeling about your plans going to hell, but allow things to slip away anyway.
4. Nurture your non-mum identity
Mums can be caught up in the idea that they are only mums and lose themselves.
Ignore the voice in your head about what constitutes a perfect mother, and just be you. Make time to reconnect with what you loved to do before children — and don’t feel guilty about it! Join a book club and actually go to the meetings. Take dance lessons. Plan a spa day with your girlfriends every so often.
Also cultivate candid friendships that don’t focus on competition, even if only via “phone therapy,” also known as leaving long voicemails for one another.
5. Breathe
If “take a deep breath” is something you try to remember to do when stress starts mounting, you’re on the right track. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of proper breathing and employing specific breathing techniques. They range from lower blood pressure, increased lung capacity and a strengthened immune system to reduced stress and improved focus and concentration, to name a few. Babies should be our guide. At birth, children naturally breathe deeply from the belly rather than shallowly from the chest like most adults.
In addition to remembering to “take a deep breath,” filling the belly first followed by the chest with air, try a deep sigh, letting out a natural sound of relief as air exits the lungs. The calming “ocean breath” sounds like a gentle snore as it passes slowly through the back of the throat. Ground yourself first by placing your feet on the floor, notice the things around you to orient to the surroundings and then sigh deeply to help level out the shortness of breath created during a stressful situation. Or simply stop, close your eyes, and focus on your breath and nothing else for one minute.
You can also apply this wisdom in other ways. Feel the ground while walking, taste your food, even notice your body’s sensations while standing in line at the bank.

Friday, 15 July 2011

The Physical Benefits of Power Yoga

Power Yoga, through its practice of a series of rigorous asanas, is more about strengthening the body – than chanting, and meditating. The Power Yoga practitioner is rewarded with many physical benefits to his bones, his muscles, and his joints. The goals of power Yoga are to increase flexibility, improve concentration, and build and tone the muscles. The achievement of these goals makes the practitioner’s body stronger and healthier.
The workout, experienced during Power Yoga, is intense and utilizes the entire body. To hold the series of poses in this type of Yoga session, the practitioner has to use muscles in his arms, shoulders, back, legs, feet, and abdomen, which tone and strengthen these muscles. This workout also burns a lot of calories, so a practitioner can benefit by losing excess weight, while at the same time, build lean muscle tissue.
Due to the fact that an integral part of practicing Power Yoga is stretching and breathing exercises, the practitioner increases overall flexibility. The joints, tendons, and muscles all become more flexible. This can be particularly beneficial to practitioners, who suffer from arthritic conditions, since the increased flexibility helps to alleviate the pain and stiffness associated with these conditions.
A Power Yoga practitioner also enjoys increased stamina. Following the series of poses, in this practice, means the practitioner is in constant motion from holding each of the challenging poses and quickly moving into the next pose. This is an energetic cardiovascular workout that strengthens the core muscles, as well. An added benefit, resulting from the workout experienced through Power Yoga, is improved blood circulation and heart health.
Power Yoga practitioners also enjoy better posture, as a result of their toned muscles, particularly the core muscles, which also provide added balance. Better posture helps practitioners who are suffering from back pain, because correct posture maintains the spine aligned, eliminating any negative pressure, resulting from any misalignment.
Another physical benefit of Power Yoga is the reduction of stress and tension. While the powerful workout, experienced through Power Yoga, increases strength, flexibility, and stamina – in order to achieve these, the practitioner learns to release stress, and relax the body, in order to perfect each of the challenging poses.
Finally, a major physical benefit of Power Yoga is improved general health. Power Yoga practitioners boost their immune systems and become more in tune with the body overall. Since the workout involves challenging moves, toxins are also eliminated from the body through sweat.
By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

Be Happy

Happiness has different meanings for everyone; we each have to define and seek it for ourselves. Ask others, "what makes you happy?" or "what is something that makes you feel good?" and people will give you completely different answers, after all it's all relative isn't it? So, how do you go about finding happiness and peace within? Here are a few of my thoughts...

Decide what is important to you in life. Do you value a certain kind of job; material things; a relationship; time alone or with others; time to relax or to be creative; time to read, listen to music or have fun? These are just a few of the possibilities.

Think about times when you have felt happy, good or content. Where were you? Whom were you with? What were you doing, thinking or experiencing that made you feel happy?

Decide to make more time in your life to do more of what is important to you and makes you feel happier. To be happy, you have to make happiness a priority in your life.

Start with little things and work up to bigger ones. Little things might include reading an engrossing book for 15 minutes; going for a walk; telephoning a friend; or buying scented soap, shampoo, candles or tea that you enjoy every time you use them.

Focus on what is positive about yourself, others and life in general instead of dwelling on the negative. Write down as many positive things as you can think of in a journal. Keep it handy to read over and continue adding to it.

Appreciate what is working in your life at the moment. In the major areas of your life, such as your health, job, love life, friends, family, money and living situation, what is going well?

It's okay to ask for professional help. Talk to someone, such as psychotherapist or career counsellor to help you out what would make you happy.

Read books on the subject of happiness. Wise people have been writing about it for hundreds of years. In the bookshop, look under pyschology, spirituality or philosophy.

The chances are that your happiest days are yet to come. At any time and at any age, it is possible to feel happier than you have been. Doesn't that make you happier? 

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Children and Yoga: Does It Work?

Scarlet (4) in Cobra

Children experience many of the same physical benefits adults do from practicing yoga. They learn early on to tune into their bodies. Self-esteem is bolstered as the children gain control over their bodies and minds.

Yoga enhances their imagination and empathy. Children may be asked in a class to strike poses from nature. They might assume the pose of a snake, or a tree, or a dog. Then they may be asked to imagine what it would be like to be those life forms. In this way, children learn early on to connect with all the life on the planet and realise that similarities far outweigh differences.

Yoga teaches children to have fun and move their bodies in a non-competitive environment. Yoga isn’t about being right or wrong, or being best or worst. It is about bringing unity to one’s own life. Children can work together to help each other reach this goal.

Yoga teaches self-discipline. As part of the practice of yoga, kids need to slow down, hold certain postures, breathe or think in a certain way. Yoga encourages children to master themselves rather than wait for an adult to control them.

Yoga can also be a way to strengthen families. Yoga is an exercise that parents and children and even grandparents can practice and talk about together. As children participate in yoga with their families, they feel closer to their loved ones.

Through practicing yoga, children can learn ways to relax and get control of stress in their lives. A child worried about a test, for instance, might use the meditation or breathing techniques of yoga to help her calm down and focus.

By teaching self awareness, self control, and concentration, yoga can also help to manage children who have been diagnosed with ADHD – attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. Yoga has also been used with some success to help children with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and autism. Yoga has also been used to help kids with cancer cope with their diagnosis and with scary medical procedures.

By aiding in stress reduction, reducing anxiety, increasing body awareness, strength, and flexibility and increasing self-regulation. Persons with Autism may particularly benefit from yoga in that heightened anxiety, poor motor coordination and strength and weak self-regulation are three areas in which most persons with autistic spectrum disorders struggle and for which there are few other solutions. Yoga poses and breathing techniques could prove to be very helpful interventions for increasing the quality of life for children and adolescents with ASDs. By practicing a simple warm up, strengthening, calming, and tension-releasing exercises that are suitable for reducing coping mechanisms such as hand-flapping, and increasing muscle tone, muscle strength and body awareness. 

A student I teach says the following, “I have a grandson with Asperger Syndrome who has been doing yoga for about a year. He does especially well with a modified Tree Pose and the modified Spinal Twist. Both poses are relaxing and keep his arms occupied. The Tree is wonderful for strengthening his muscles and helping his balance. The Spinal Twist is a very gentle twist that is good for his upper torso. These yoga poses have helped him release energy in a positive way."

The incidence of diagnosed autism has risen sharply over the past 20 years; some estimates put the rate as high as one in 500 children. Yet I have found very few articles based on yogic training and autistic children. One program in Seattle maintained positive results with a yoga-based treatment called Integrated Movement Therapy; the children reportedly improved their balance and sociability as well as their communication. 

Many adults practice yoga not only for the ways that it benefits the body, but also for its well proven effectiveness in improving mental clarity and emotional balance, and now growing numbers of children are discovering that this type of exercise can be good for them, as well. Some schools have begun to incorporate "kids yoga" classes into their curriculum, recognising the positive effects that yoga can have on students.

The benefits of yoga are far-reaching, with participants in yoga classes for children experiencing all sorts of physical and emotional changes. Yoga is calming and is a wonderful stress reducer, which can be quite helpful for today’s generation of over-scheduled, high stress kids. Unlike a generation ago, modern kids are often kept busy with a number of organised activities, allowing them very little time to simply unwind and relax, but yoga helps them to do just that. While all kids can benefit from yoga, those with hyperactivity or anxiety conditions may be especially well suited to yoga classes.

In addition to the emotional benefits of yoga, kids who enrol in yoga classes reap a number of physical rewards. Increased strength, flexibility, better balance, improved coordination, and heightened body confidence are common for those who practice yoga regularly, and with continued practice, many people notice an enhanced spiritual connection to the exercise.

As kids get older and are better able to take direction, parents may want to consider enrolling them in classes specifically labelled “yoga for children” or “yoga for kids.” Children are not simply small adults, so they need to have instructors who are educated in paediatric physiology and have the personality to offer patient, positive, and careful direction.

Incorporating Yoga into a School Curriculum

When presented with options, many parents would choose to include yoga as part of the physical education programmes at their children’s schools. Some schools haven’t made changes to their curriculum in years (in some cases, it may even have been decades!), but today’s forward-thinking educators are often enthusiastic about offering children a well-rounded educational experience. Interested parents may wish to contact their children’s teachers about incorporating yoga instruction into their kids’ school days.

Yoga is an age old practice, but has enjoyed a resurgence of interest in recent years. Today’s busy lifestyles often require that people of all ages (kids included) actively seek healthy ways to relax and release stress. Yoga is an ideal choice for many, with benefits that are far reaching. Additionally, yoga teaches a respect for the body and spirit, encouraging participants to look at their overall health and lifestyle choices to see that they are making sound decisions regarding their nutrition, environment, and relationships. Such thoughtful introspection is an especially good habit to install in childhood, when many lifelong attitudes are being developed.

Overall, children seem to derive great benefits from doing yoga. The next time you put on the DVD for your own workout, think about including your little one in the fun. Chances are you’ll be glad you did.