The popularity of yoga is rising worldwide. Nowadays the mental and physical health benefits of yoga are being more and more researched and the evidence for its positive contribution to wellbeing is growing. It’s being practiced all around the world and is starting to be incorporated in many different settings as a supportive tool in healing or therapy.Not only for adults, but also for children the practice of yoga has become a powerful tool to deal with stressors in daily life.
Today’s children grow up in rapidly changing societies, where violence, aggression and criminality are becoming more apparent through global developments and social media. On a micro level we see children being raised in dysfunctional families or unsafe environments is becoming more common, leading to an increased population of traumatised and ‘at risk youth’. More attention is being paid to the implementation of yoga and mindfulness practices in schools, detention centres, foster care and orphanages to address the problems of at risk kids. Yoga can help them regain control over their bodies, minds and lives. And they like it.
The benefits of yoga for at risk childrenYoga can be seen as a practical therapy for abnormal emotional development, which can result in personality disorders in a later stage. Practicing yoga at an early age can contribute to balancing the stages of mental development of children. Since children’s brains are still flexible to growth, receptive minds can be created and the quality of the consciousness be transformed. The earlier we start, the bigger the chance that children stay on track. Moreover, concentration skills and focus is being stimulated in performing asanas and learning how to breathe. The consistent practice of yoga is a powerful tool to keep at risk kids at the right path.
2. Children learn how to deal with physical tension and emotional stress. The body becomes relaxed, the mind becomes still and they get more in touch with a place of peace and calmness inside. Learning how to breath properly adds a lot to this as well.
3. Increasing body awareness through the practice brings back self-control and self-efficacy and the ability to connect with emotions and the inner world. Also, overall awareness is increased, and the ability to observe the inner world from a distance without judgement.
4. Children learn how to accept things they cannot change. Children learn to adapt an acceptance-based coping style and learn to approach themselves and the world around them coming from a place of compassion.
5. Sraddha — a safe shelter within. One more crucial aspect to follow the right path, that goes for every at risk child, is being stimulated through the practice of yoga and can be considered as the starting point and foundation of the healing process of the child. It’s the process of self-realisation and the connection with our true selves through the practice of yoga. It brings us all the way back to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, where he describes in Sutra 1.20 a systematic way to follow the right path. It all starts with sraddha, the faith that you are moving in the right direction. The practice of yoga stimulates the development of a deep belief, an inner trust and awareness that these children often lack. It’s that feeling of safety within, where the body becomes a safe place to be, feeling grounded, present and aware.
“Last week I had an interesting discussion on the concept of ‘sraddha’ with the teachers of Deenabandhu School during the workshops I gave on trauma healing and yoga. Although there’s no proper translation in English for this Sanskrit word, it comes down to a deep feeling of trust, confidence and faith, firmly rooted within. A constant awareness of the soul arising from love. It’s sraddha that ignites the inner fire, enlightens and helps to burn through all obstacles. An anchor. A shining light in the darkness, with a strong belief in light at the end of the tunnel. In the darkest sky, sparkling stars shine at their best. Sraddha makes that this sparkle reaches us, even if it’s many light years away. Just looking up at the darkness and knowing it’s there is sometimes enough. A place that doesn’t naturally exist in everybody’s vocabulary.
The children of orphanage Deenabandhu often aren’t born with this safe shelter. Home. Nobody to turn on the heating when it’s getting cold. To light the candles when it’s getting dark. They only have the light of the stars that guides them from their first steps on the earth. And it’s exactly this ray of light, this sraddha that is lifting them up and taking them to the place where they belong. To that safe shelter within.”