Halfway through the first phase of lockdown, I lost count of how many friends advised me to check out Cosmic Kids, a YouTube channel offering yoga sessions for kids. Their children couldn’t get enough of it, they said, and it was a great way to keep them moving and stop the boredom.
It turns out that South African moms weren’t alone in discovering the joy of yoga for little ones. According to one article on newstatesman.com, the channel which Jaime Amor set up in 2012, it has been getting over a million hits a day during the pandemic; a significant increase on the usual 100 000 hits.
There’s good reason for its popularity with moms and kids. According to Cami Barausse, owner of Yogi Bears, a local a yoga studio for kids aged between 3 and 16 years, the discipline has much to offer children, and can be enjoyed by little ones as young as age 4.
“Children mimic us adults; they even copy our reactions in this fast-paced world where we constantly rush from place to place and race to meet deadlines with hardly a minute to breathe,” Cami explains. She adds that it’s her mission to help children become mindful by connecting movement to their breath. “It’s about giving them the ability to control their emotions, instead of allowing their emotions to control them.”
We might imagine that childhood is a time of long days and laughter, but the reality is that for today’s kids, it’s more about school, extramural activities, family and social dynamics. In short, it can be pretty stressful. Breathing can help with that, Cami says: “By helping kids connect with their breath, they become more rooted, get a little perspective and can take a break from all the competition in their little lives. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is for older kids only. By becoming aware and mindful at a young age, we are able to calm the mind and approach the situations life throws at us with a deeper sense of clarity and rationality,” Cami notes.
Building little bodies
No surprises here: yoga promotes coordination, strength, flexibility and balance while breathwork helps to improve body awareness. Plus, says Cami, “because yoga is a non-competitive activity, it helps to boost self-esteem and self-confidence. It allows children to be themselves in a non-judgmental space.”
Did you know that, directly translated, ‘namaste’ means “the divine in me bows to the divine in you”? The concept may be a bit too complex for your preschooler but, nonetheless, yoga can help kids to develop respect for themselves, others and the world. “By allowing children to experience yoga, we are creating mindful beings for tomorrow – children who are aware of the mind-body connection and have the tools in their ‘tool box for life’ to deal with situations they may find themselves in,” says Cami.
If your little one doesn’t show that much interest in yoga, don’t force it, she advises. Instead, let her explore it on her own terms. If you’re prone to doing a surya namaskar yourself, chances are she’ll copy you. But even if you’re not, now’s a great time to let her watch an online class, copy the moves (if she wants to) or simply play around on a mat.
More about the expert:
Cami Barausse completed her kids and adults yoga teacher training after spending 3 months in India to deepened her own yoga practice. She established Yogi BearsZA in 2016. Learn more about Cami Barausse here.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.