My favourite asana is the Chakra asana and I can do it for a long time too,” says Pia Kaul. This is not a yoga expert speaking. It’s a 10-year-old student of Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, who lives in Malviya Nagar in South Delhi.
Move over power yoga, kiddie-yoga is here. Even as many attend hobby classes such as dance and painting, yoga is slowly becoming popular with children.
“We get more than 10 calls a day enquiring about yoga classes for children. The summer months are especially busy, but we get calls for weekend packages throughout the year,” said Kedar Nath, a yoga instructor who arranges personal yoga classes for children.
“This is more or less a recent trend. Earlier, only adults approached us for classes,” he adds.
According to yoga instructors across the spectrum, some asanas that benefit growing children are the “palm tree” posture (tadasana) that helps increase height, the “lotus” posture (padmasana) that improves concentration, and the triangle posture (trikonasana), that helps stretch the entire body.
When it comes to children, physical fitness is not the only consideration. “Yoga has many other special benefits for children,” says Ykateriana Katya, a Russian national who is a yoga instructor at Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Dwarka.
“Yoga enhances flexibility, mobility, hand-eye coordination and creativity. One benefit that is seen only in children is the increase in memory,” she said.
Both Katya and Nath said that children above 6 years are fit to perform yoga asanas.
One asana that is a strict no-no for kids is the shirshasana or the headstand. “The bones of the their skulls are not strong enough to support the weight of the body, so the headstand is not suitable for them,” said Katya.
The increasing options have made the parents a happy lot too. “It’s important for children to learn about health and fitness at a young age. Yoga is a good way to begin as it is something close to our culture,” said Preeti Khanna, a resident of Mayur Vihar, whose son takes private yoga lessons.
Many schools such as Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, The Shri Ram School, Tagore International School and Step By Step are also holding regular classes for their students.
“We started yoga classes for children seven years ago. It increases fitness and flexibility in the children and also provides mental and emotional stability,” said Madhulika Sen, principal, Tagore International School.
The school also holds virtual yoga classes using a videocam for children in Shanghai.
One thing that is not allowed in the kiddie-yoga classes is a strict regimen. “Children should have fun in these classes. Else, it will not appeal to them. We treat these yoga asanas like games, using visual imagery to explain the asanas. It is just like a game and so the children really enjoy it.”