CHILDREN (AGES 0 - 12)
Yoga isn’t just for the young and flexible who can twist their bodies like pretzels. Thousands of people of all ages and sizes practice yoga on a daily basis, finding the gentle stretching and balancing practices to be beneficial for both their physical and mental health. Whether you’re 8 or 80, yoga can help you build strength and find inner peace. As you move through different yoga poses, focusing on your breath, you can experience all the benefits of yoga. To start your yoga practice, try moving through these three positions for yogis of all ages.
Bridge pose, or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, is a versatile yoga pose, perfect for either warming up and cooling down. This pose can be used as a building block for more challenging poses, but it’s a common pose for beginners of all ages and can be modified for different ability levels. Begin by laying on your back with knees bent. Reach your hands down towards your ankles, and you should be able to work up to the point that you can graze your heel with your fingertips. With your arms extended downward, lift your hips up off the mat, pushing them towards the ceiling. From here you can snuggle your shoulders inward for more support. If you find your knees keep splaying out, try holding a yoga block or pillow between your knees. Another option for a supportive stretch is to place a yoga block under your back, letting your muscles relax and stretch. This is one of the best yoga poses for stretching your thoracic spine, shoulders, and chest while strengthening your hips and upper-back muscles.
Tree pose, or Vrksasana, isn’t so much about stretching or building muscles as it is about mental focus and balance. To begin this pose, stand straight with your feet joined parallel together. Slowly shift your weight to one foot, keeping your hips level. As you start to stand on one foot, you can rest your other foot on your opposite ankle, calf, or thigh, creating the shape of a 4 with your legs. In tree pose, you should feel an opposition between your standing leg and foot as they press against eaching other, a rooting through all four corners of your grounded foot, and a lifting through your spine. When you’re first practicing this pose, don’t worry about how high you can lift your foot. Focus on maintaining your balance. As you start to lift your foot higher, don’t press it against your knee as this places unnecessary stress on the joint. You can keep your hands at your heart or lift them above you like tree branches.
A supine twist is a deliciously deep stretch in the cooldown phase of most yoga sequences. Lay on your back with knees bent, like when you begin bridge pose. Stretch your arms out into a T and slowly let your knees fall to one side. Try to keep both shoulders planted on the ground, and as you gain flexibility, you can turn your head to look in the opposite direction of your knees. After laying in a supine twist for several breaths, slowly move your head back to center and lift your knees. Practice this position on both sides. To deepen this stretch, you can place your left hand on your right knee (or vice versa).
Each of these yoga poses focuses on a different set of skills and muscles, and they’re common building blocks in many yoga sequences. By learning and practicing a few basic poses, you’ll be ready to jump into a full yoga flow at home or in a studio. As you do so, be sure to listen to your body’s limits, respecting any discomfort and not forcing your body into any positions. No matter how old you are, a few modifications will help you start your yoga journey for a stronger body and calmer mind..
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