I have practiced and taught Yoga for close to 50 years. The first class I ever taught was with senior citizens. My most fulfilling work has been with children. I have always loved interacting with children and my Sister Shola Caroline Arewa reminded me of this by posting these photos today that were published in Chicago Parent magazine in 2001. The children in these photos are in their early to mid-20s now and I pray they have become healthy and productive adults.
Yoga for children is an invaluable tool for their development on every level. A child having the opportunity to take Yoga and learn the skills of Internal Self Regulation or ISR, a term I coined to encapsulate the liberating ability to have an internal locus of control rather than an external one, can make the difference between a successful life or one with many maladies.
In the programs that I created for children that included not only Yoga practice but also nutrition and lifestyle awareness for themselves and their parents, we incorporated a mechanism to monitor their progress and the effects of this experience on their overall physical, cognitive and psycho-emotional development. We found that their parents reported lower levels of stress and more satisfying home life because the children behaved with a greater degree of self-control and discipline.
Our research demonstrated that children performed better in the classroom had less disciplinary incidents and reached developmental milestones as a consequence of our Yogic intervention. I would even periodically bump into my children with their parents in Whole Foods market because the child who was only 4 to 6 years old insisted that the parent shop for healthy foods.
The YogaSkills Method or YSM we developed put great emphasis on the development of the whole child and his/her family matrix. We also countered the extremely dumb and misinformed notion that Yoga is for flexibility. Our program for children demonstrated that the true power of Yoga practices lies in the hormonal enhancement and positive brain chemistry changes that occur as a consequence. And when combined with positive changes in diet that include more nutritional content and less sugar, fats, and behavior-altering chemical food additives, the positive changes were dramatic.
We also found that the children of mothers who practiced Yoga while pregnant had profound effects on the child’s cognitive functioning and emotional development. These children engage in Yoga practice on a much deeper level by being able to quickly enter deep meditative states and sustain them as well as achieve developmental milestones ahead of schedule or on schedule.
All Kemetic Yoga teachers are provided with resources on teaching Yoga for children that highlight the clinical and developmental benefits and how to teach them. Older youth are also provided with a deeper understanding of Kemetic Yoga ethics and the history of civilizations that emerged out of Africa and other Black and Brown areas of the world. We have found that providing children and youth with a “culturally competent” experience is the best way to tease out their highest potential and instill self-esteem.