Did you know that being upside down actually helps you to be better on your feet?
As pediatric occupational therapists, we actually have specific exercises that get children in an upside down position on purpose to help them gain better body awareness. Things like bowling through your legs, while being in an inverted position. These help children with their postural control, balance, and timing of movements in space.
That's why Yoga works great on children. It is a great intervention. In fact, I use it in treatment of children that need to work on breath control, postural alignment, core work, and more. However, the key word here is that I use it in intervention, or rather to treat an already established condition.
More and more I'm seeing Yoga being integrated into classrooms as part of their curriculum. Part of me is happy that the kids are getting added movement and strengthening. The other part of me is very frustrated. I often think, How did we get to this point? "The point," meaning where kids need to do formal exercises (because lets face it -- Yoga is an exercise program) in order to stay healthy.
We've now gotten to the point where almost all children need some sort of intervention like Yoga in order to even focus in the classroom. Core strength, balance, and attention are at an all-time low. Teachers are having trouble getting kids to stay in their seats and kids are fidgeting like crazy.
My thought: Kids need more time to go outside and play, even during the school day.
Child-directed play with no boundaries, no hidden agendas is the most meaningful experience to a child. Bring that play outdoors -- and all the senses are engaged and alive. The child is in their natural environment, seeking out movements that their neurological system will naturally seek out. Instead of solely relying on offering exercises for children. What if we...
Let them hang from a tree branch close to the ground.
Let them hang from the monkey bars at school.
Let them do cartwheels at recess.
(Some of these things are being banned at schools as too dangerous)
Then they will start establishing better body awareness in the most natural of ways. We won't need special exercises to rehabilitate the problems such as balance and attention as much. They'll be stronger and safer -- if only we let them challenge their bodies during outdoor play.
Instead of treatment -- think prevention. Let the children go outdoors AND go upside down!