Friday, January 07, 2011

Yoga for children

Introducing kids to yoga has multiple benefits

Movement is essential for growing bodies. And, yoga is a timeless, time-tested and practical technique for developing both mind and body. Children can relate wonderfully to yoga poses – many yoga asanas were derived by observing Nature, and some of them imitate the spirit of animals such as the lion, cat and dog. They also represent parts of the environment such as the mountains, trees and sun – aiming to imbibe their natural grace and qualities. Read on to discover the answers to frequently asked concerns about yoga for children.

How is yoga for children different from that of adults?
Both adults and children benefits from yoga. Children are more supple than adults, and introducing them to yoga at a young age is a great way to ensure that their bodies stay supple and fit.

How does it help to initiate children to yoga at an early stage?
Practising yoga regularly in the early years helps develop better mental concentration, co-ordination, flexibility, strength, postural awareness and breathing habits. Yoga also balances the functioning of the body’s glandular system and the chakras – the body’s spiritual energy centres.

What is an ideal age to begin yoga?
Right from the age of four, you can introduce yoga to children. In this young age group, tremendous physical and mental development is constantly taking place.

What should be the length and frequency of yoga sessions for kids?
Yoga can be performed once a week as well as all seven days of the week. The duration can range from 10 minutes to 60 minutes per session. The yoga session should be planned keeping in mind the age, attention span, interest and goal of the child.

For example, yoga poses can be performed to either slow down or energise the system. A hyperactive child can be encouraged to practice breathing exercises or relaxation poses. A child who prefers a sedentary way of life can be encouraged to practice energetic poses to boost the metabolism.

Do children with medical conditions need to avoid yoga practice?
The need to consult their physician for specific exercise recommendations based on their medical condition.

How can yoga instructors enliven up yoga sessions for children since have a short attention span?Introducing children to yoga asanas as an activity that is fun and entertaining helps channel their natural energy to a fitter body.

Ages Four To Seven
Be inventive – think of simple stories or use their favourite story books to incorporate the different animal or object poses. Animal poses and story telling workouts keep kindergarten-age children entertained.

Ages Eight To Eleven
From this age onwards, the yoga session can be more structured. Dynamic asanas, in which a series of different poses are put together, such as the salute to the sun, can be introduced. Dynamic poses boost strength in order children.

Ages Twelve Upwards
Older children have a longer attention span, more stamina and endurance to attempt poses such as the candle pose. You can now include more challenging poses based on their fitness ability.
Are there dietary instructions to complement this discipline of fitness?
A well-balanced diet consisting of a high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals and sprouts, will always complement any physical activity.

Are there precautions that need to be observed by kids?
Make sure the environment is clear of any sharp objects, so that they do not hurt themselves. They should wear comfortable loose clothing and there should be adequate ventilation.

Does yoga help children in social interactions and dietary habits, apart from increasing their fitness quotient?
The feel-good factor that comes with regular yoga practice may increase confidence in their social interactions.

Courtesy : The Hindu, Monday, November, 29, 2010.Metro Plus.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Raising a Fit Kid

Play has taken on a different grab with many children.  Activity is more with the hands and minds watching television, at the computer or even on the mobile for more than two to three hours a day on a average.  A sedentary lifestyle at a young age leads to an  inactive adult life with its attendant health problems.  Curb this and usher them on to a path of fitness.
Exercise should be as much as part of a child's daily routine as eating and sleeping.  Start young to stay young.  The benefits of exercise grow with the years.  Physical activity increases cardiovascular endurance, builds muscle strength, improves flexibility, coordination and balance.  This reduces chances of developing cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes and other obesity and stress related problems.  Exercise also helps manage weight, improve alertness, builds team spirit and a sense of well being and enhances self-image.
Play in any form is exercise, be it running, chasing, catching, bouncing a ball or even turning somersaults.  Informal play can be moulded into regular exercise as the child grows.  While the school has physical training as part of its timetable, parents and the family too should encourage their children to be fit.  Proper diet and exercise nurture good health.  Exercise builds the three vital elements of fitness- endurance, strength and flexibility.
Fitness has to be fun.  Exercise need not be imposed and structured but can be made fun.  For toddlers it can be simple and enjoyable.  They can play at the park, jump, walk and run.
For pre-schoolers it can be more skilled like throwing a ball, hoping balancing, pedalling a tricycle etc., For school-age children it can be rules for games and sports.  Moderately intense activities can include swimming, bicycling, team sports and outdoor play.  They should start with non-competitive sports and opt for competitive sports.
Adolescents develop bodily changes and gain height and weight as they grow into young adults.  The choice and form of exercise is their own but it should be age appropriate.  Whether its jogging and running, competitive sports, fitness classes, gymnastics, bicycling or exercise videos it has to be vigorous and thrice a week.
Specific exercises that enhance muscular strength and bone health include skipping, climbing, jumping and gymnastics. aerobic activity develops endurance, strengthens the heart improves the body's ability to deliver oxygen to the cells.  Aerobic activities include basketball, bicycling, skating, tennis swimming, walking, jogging and running.
Flexibility exercises help improve suppleness, allowing the body bend and move easily through their full range of motion.  Flexibility exercises include simple stretches and yogaSana's.
Parents should allot time, be regular, set goals and review and reward the child.  As a parent you can encourage, inspire, guide, support and quip the child's activity. Help them by providing equipments, transportation and above all participate or even be a role model.
courtesy : Wellness, The Hindu, March 26,2009.

Monday, January 03, 2011

When to Wean Breast-Feeding?

It is a good practice for the mother to take the baby, especially the first born to the doctor three to five days after delivery.  This way the doctor can assess how breast feeding is going on and be able to answer any questions the mother has.  A doctor can easily tell whether the baby is having adequate feeds by checking the baby's weight gain.  The golden rule to determine if a baby is underfed or becoming weak day by day is to observe whether the baby is very hungry and prefers feeding every hour but still fails to gain weight.
It is equally important to know when exactly the baby should be weaned away from breast- feeding depends on the needs and desires of both the mother and the baby.  Exclusive breast-feeding for at least six months and breast -feeding with solid foods until 12 months are considered most advisable.
Gradual weaning over weeks or months is easier for both the mother and her baby than abrupt stopping of breast-feeding.  The general practice is to substitute one to three breast-feeding sessions with a bottle or a cup of fruit juice, expressed breast milk or a formula feed. It is wise to substitute breast feeds at meal-times with solids.
Learning to drink from a cup is an important developmental milestone and is usually attained when the child is 10 months old.  Mothers gradually replace more and more breast feedings although many infants continue one or two brest feeds daily till the age of 18-24 months.
In rural India almost all mothers indulge in prolonged breast feeds until the age of 3.  The opposite is the case with the higher strata of society spicially the educated group who switch over to bottle feeds when the baby is six months old.  It is difficult to pinpoint the reasons for early weaning in this group of mothers.  The possible reasons are :
  1. Office- going mothers find it difficult to cope with the timings.
  2. Some complain of inadequate production of milk.
  3. Some mothers feel that bottle feeds are easier than the cumbersome breast-feeding sessions.
All said and done, each mother is different in her outlook and is unique in her thinking about breast-feeding a baby.
Courtesy : Times of India , Women's life , October 17,2006