Mind Games
Kids Life, Issue 2, Feb-Mar 2004

By Jane Wiesner

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Every parent wants their child to be happy. But what constitutes happiness? Being self-assured perhaps? Being able to feel a sense of self-worth? According to the philosophy of yoga, happiness and well-being are one. Yoga aims to promote a sense of inner strength and a feeling of personal power. Rather than being unduly influenced by your surroundings in order to find happiness, you become confident and happy with your own inner wisdom.

So how can this ancient philosophy help your child? By giving them something that no amount of money or status can—a love and acceptance of the Self.

One of the first steps on the road to self-esteem and personal power is learning how to concentrate. Concentration means focus and focus means clarity and clarity means wisdom. Without concentration our thoughts tend to be scattered and erratic. When we are unable to concentrate we can become subject to irrational thoughts and emotional upheavals.

In fact, one of the biggest blocks to concentration is emotional turmoil. I was very young when my father died and I found that this loss and my inner conflict over feeling different from other children blocked my ability to concentrate. Hence, as a small child, I felt unable to think clearly. My power was lost to disharmony, fear and confusion. If I'd had the tools that yoga offers back then, I believe that my path to inner peace would have been much easier.

Without going to far into the subtle influences of yogic philosophy, there are some basic principles that need to be understood in order to learn what yoga can do to help your child's concentration and focus. Firstly, biology shows us that the body's ability to function mentally and physically depends on the healthy workings of the spinal cord and nervous system. Yogic physiology works in much the same way. Energy fields called nadis are connected to centres of energy, the chakras. These chakras are connected by a channel of energy which runs along the spine called the Kundalini. They are at the base of the spine and go through to the crown of the head. The healthy function of the body and mind relates to these core areas of the body. Restrictions, such as emotional problems or muscular tension or dis-ease, have a great bearing on the flow of the body's subtle energy which is known in Sanskrit as Prana.

Yogic tradition teaches that prana is moved through the body with the breath. This is why breathing is such an important part of yoga practice. Yoga works through a combination of movement and the breath. For you and your child to experience a sense of peace and clarity of mind this flow of energy or prana must be clear and unblocked.

Particular asanas (yoga poses) can be used to balance different areas in the body, and to encourage a free flow of energy throughout the body. Yoga poses also have many psychological benefits, such as creating or enhancing feelings of strength, stability and confidence.

Most of the asanas recommended to improve concentration are centred around releasing the flow of energy in the charkas, particular the base chakra (a point related to feeling grounded and stable) and the third-eye chakra (which relates to thought and intuition). On the following pages, you will find a description of two asanas that work to strengthen and balance the energy flow in the base and third-eye chakras.

Always remember to consult your doctor before beginning any exercise programme. An important part of yoga practice is to take responsibility for your own health and wellbeing. This sense of personal power and intuition is something that parent's can help their children develop as they grow. We all want the best for our children. And the best way to help them is to teach them ways to help themselves.

Download the PDF (297 KB) of this article to see pictures and instructions for the following asanas: the mountain (tadasana) and the giraffe (combination of hasta utthanasana, padahastasana and tadasana).

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