Children's Yoga: A Stretch Too Far? Our Writer Takes Her Three-Year-Old Son along to a Session. HE IS BALANCED AND STRESS-FREE; Research Shows That Children Who Do Yoga Are More Content in General

Daily Mail (London), October 22, 2013 | Go to article overview

Children's Yoga: A Stretch Too Far? Our Writer Takes Her Three-Year-Old Son along to a Session. HE IS BALANCED AND STRESS-FREE; Research Shows That Children Who Do Yoga Are More Content in General


Byline: PATRICE HARRINGTON

MY THREE-YEAROLD son Cashel is a monkey. No, really. He squats on his

hunkers, then pretends to scratch, and murmurs, 'Oo-oo-aa-aa'.

There are three other little monkeys on yellow mats beside him -- Sam, five, Kai, four and Amy, 'three-and-three-quarters' -- all crouching and chattering too. We are at a kids' yoga class in Raheny, Dublin, led by Emily McElarney, 33, a former journalist turned yoga teacher for little ones, who is upholding the family tradition of entertaining children.

Emily's grandfather Eugene Lambert founded the Lambert Puppet Theatre in Monkstown, Co. Dublin, and was O'Brien in the much-loved RTE television series Wanderly Wagon.

Her mother, Paula, is the voice -- and hand -- of Bosco, which is still one of the most famous puppets in Ireland. (When I explain to Cashel that Emily's mother is Bosco, who once visited his montessori school, his little face is understandably a picture of confusion.)

These days, parents are more keen than ever to keep children occupied but supervised and off the streets, so we are enrolling them into more classes. But it's hard to guess which ones our kids will actually like.

I've done yoga myself in the past, and found pregnancy yoga particularly beneficial, but when I first heard of kids' yoga, I thought: sure, why would little children need it? Aren't they already more bendy than the tweenies' knees at a One Direction concert? And, logistically, how would it work? Aren't they more likely to inspire deep breathing in their parents than to do it themselves? And would they not just topple over doing the postures? BUT, as Emily explains, her classes for three to six-yearolds are tailored to their gadfly attention spans and wobbly little legs. And research would actually suggest that yoga has a host of benefits for young children.

A 2003 study from California State University found regularly practising yoga improved children's self-esteem, classroom discipline and grades.

A 2009 study of some after-school programmes in the Bronx, New York, found that children practising yoga reported 'improved wellbeing', used 'fewer negative behaviours in response to stress' -- and they had better balance than a comparison group, too.

Probably because he has seen me do it -- too rarely, I must admit -- Cashel has had some interest in yoga since he started toddling.

My husband snapped a funny picture of him gatecrashing my mat to copy my downward dog when he was just 18 months old.

Cashel also likes to throw himself into the sun salute and the downward dog -- with very unyogalike ferocity -- for the amusement of visitors as a kind of, admittedly odd, party piece.

So when I suggested it, he was really excited to give Emily's class a try.

I was glad; like most boys his age, Cashel can be impulsive and enjoys more rough and tumble play -- he is certainly less inclined to sit still like the girls, colouring in between the lines.

So I wondered if yoga might be good for his concentration (though it was reassuring to see that the other two boys in the class were equally boisterous -- and also that they liked changing the subject to farts, which also often happens in our house).

Shy at first, Cashel soon whips off his shoes and socks and takes his place on the mat because, as Emily says, the class doesn't start until everyone is in 'easy pose' -- sitting down and also paying attention.

'Who's going to tell me some rules of yoga?' she begins.

'Farting!' shouts one of the boys. 'Definitely not,' says Emily, unfazed. It is funny to see Cashel put his hand up, though, of course, he doesn't know the answer.

'I just saw a bus go by!' offers Sam.

With some heavy hinting, it turns out the first rule of yoga is you stay on your mat.

The second rule, Amy remembers, is that you always have a 'happy back' -- you sit with your back nice and straight. …

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