(Originally published in OM Yoga & Lifestyle Magazine Sep 2017)
Veronica Greene founded Little Greene Yoga® and offers a Certified Children’s Teacher Training package (for 3-5yrs; 5-8yrs; 8-12yrs & Teens & Postnatal Yoga) www.LittleGreeneYoga.com
15 years ago when I founded Little Greene Yoga I would notice a dramatic change in a child’s posture once they started secondary school. This change was down to a number of reasons – carrying extra books, studying, hunched over a desk or the simple awkwardness of adolescence! This posture adaptation is known as ‘forward head syndrome’.
About 5 years ago I started to see this same postural imbalance happening among my 8-12 year olds. This coincided with the availability of various affordable electronic tablets. These devices are now part of everyday life, unfortunately so is this posture, now often referred to as ‘text head’.
Children’s spines and bodies are now developing problems that can be avoided – their abs (stomach) and pecs (chest) are now in a permanent shortened position; sternocleidomastoid (neck) is shortening; the scapulae (shoulder blades) flare out to the side and the muscles of their upper back are weak and over stretched. This not only causes pain but limits the movement on the diaphragm and the functioning of their lungs.
The following 5 asanas, should be included in every child’s yoga class to counteract the effects of modern life.
The postures will open the chest and abdomen, lengthen the neck, strengthen the upper back and stabilise the shoulder blades.
The instructions for the postures are as you would speak to a child. Remember to make it fun, work them into a game as the kids are not going to want to do them just because it’s good for them!
1. Bellows Breath
Opens chest and allows for full expansion of the lungs and diaphragm
Sit tall in simple cross leg position
Interlock fingers at the base of the head
Inhale, move elbows out the side, opening chest
Exhale and bring elbows back to the ears. (encourage them not to stick their ribs out)
2. Table Top
Opens chest, helps stabilise shoulder blades, lengthens spine, abdomen, hip flexors and works legs & arms
Sit on your bottom with your knees bent, feet on the floor hip distance apart
Place your hands on the floor just behind your bottom, with your fingers pointing forward
Push into your hands and feet to lift your bottom off the floor.
Keep lifting until your bottom is as high as your knees and chest. (Encourage them to hold the pose while breathing normally)
3. Caterpillar Walks
Works whole body but importantly helps strengthen the shoulder blade stabilisers
Stand tall with your feet hip distance
Walk your hands down your legs until you can touch the floor (you may have to bend your knees!)
Walk your hands forward to head down dog and straighten your legs
Keep your hands still and your legs as straight as possible, walk your feet towards your hands
Now walk your hands forward again to head down dog and repeat. (Encourage straight legs as this will keep the shoulder blades flat against the ribcage)
4. Upward Facing Bow
Opens chest, shoulders, groins, abdomen while strengthening muscles of the upper back & arms
Lying on your tummy, bend your knees keeping thighs on the floor
Take hold of your ankles and press your heels towards the ceiling
Lift your thighs off the floor to help lift your chest higher (placing a small exercise ball between their knees will keep the integrity of their knee joint while stretching thighs effectively)
Effectively targets the lower trapezius, among others
Lie on your tummy, legs and feet together
Place your hands by the side of your ears and lift elbows away from the floor
Lift your head and chest off the floor.
Lift both legs, keep straight
Change hand position to superman (one arm straight by ear and other by side, then swap) encourage them to keep moving their shoulders away from the floor
Veronica Greene is a fully qualified Iyengar Yoga Instructor (2008) to Junior Intermediate I Level. Prior to this she completed a Yoga Therapist Diploma with the Kevala Institute (1999). She is a qualified yoga instructor for children (2002), a Registered Senior Teacher with Yoga Alliance Professionals (SYT) and a faculty member of Kids Yoga Academy.
Veronica has a vocational course coming up on the 23rd February, find out more here!