Children figure out early in life that throwing a tantrum can get them what they want. Wise parents ignore tantrums in the terrible twos and threes. But what if a five-year-old or six-year-old lashes out in anger when something goes wrong in their life?
That’s where a kids’ yoga class can help.
A child’s personality is substantially formed by the time they reach seven years old. Constructive activities that help build a child’s body without instilling a potentially harmful sense of competition can be hard to come by. A yoga class for kids may be just the solution.
Youngsters who take yoga aren’t pressed to be “the best” or to compete aggressively. Instead, the exercises of yoga give children opportunities to build strong, flexible bodies at the same time that they learn self-soothing techniques, endurance and how to enjoy friendships with other children.
Yoga for kids also teaches little ones how to control aggression. There’s a difference between being aggressive, which leads to other people getting hurt, and being assertive, in which one learns to control negative emotions while standing up for one’s self. Learning self-discipline of the body and mind forms an essential part of yoga, and applies just as much to children as it does to adults.
Both boys and girls benefit from learning yoga. Fathers who may be concerned that yoga is too feminine for their sons will be relieved to learn that several National Football League teams cross-train their players in yoga. That’s because yoga teaches flexibility, strength and coordination, all of which can keep a multi-million-dollar professional athlete stay off the injured list.
Western culture often forgets that Indian male yogis practiced the discipline for thousands of years. Many of them were from the Indian warrior class known as Kshatriya. These were the fighters who stopped the armies of Alexander the Great.
Remember the old TV Western, Kung Fu? The hero, a Chinese-American named Caine, was a priest of the Shaolin temple, the originator of many Asian martial arts. According to Shaolin monks, an Indian sage named Bodhidharma taught them many healthy disciplines, which probably included yoga. Legend has it that Bodhidharma studied under Buddha himself and became a famous warrior.
Whether the story of Bodhidharma is actually true doesn’t matter. What the story teaches us is crucial. The disciplined practice of yoga can strengthen the body and mind and calm aggressive spirits. In our society, this gives youngsters a way to release their stress and manage their anger. That’s a skill that will benefit both children and our society as a whole.