Mindful antidotes in a tech-filled world
Yoga, mindfulness and meditation can be just the antidote children need to the go-go, technology-saturated lives in which they are immersed.
“It sounds ironic to talk about stress at such a young age: unfortunately, when parents are stressed, children are going to feel that indirectly but are not able to name it,” says Laura Sarah Dowdall, a wellbeing coach and contemporary dancer who runs Healing Yoga in Dublin. “We end up taking on this tension that our parents have.”
She provides workshops both as an in-school and after-school activity, to introduce children to mindful movement and creative expression, teaching body and emotional awareness to give them a better sense of themselves.
“So that they feel a little more grounded – like little trees rather than clouds. I think children are very vulnerable in following the path of what their parents want, just blowing along – and suddenly you get to secondary school and have to pick your subjects.”
Dowdall aims to empower children with techniques that they can use in decision-making and in recognising and coping with different emotions.
There has been “incredible growth” in the interest in children’s yoga, says Nicola Foxe, who started Yo-Yo Yoga in north Dublin with one class a week in 2013. Now there are so many children’s yoga teachers around the country, she says, “it is like the penny has dropped. Anybody who works with children has realised the benefits it can have, from mindfulness, mental health perspective to a physical perspective”.
She learnt yoga as an adult and found it so helpful, she wished she had started earlier. Children can be taught something as simple as breathing techniques to help make things in their lives easier, she explains.
When being shown a particularly challenging pose, they can feel how breathing can help. They learn that “if breath can make this pose easier, it can help off the mat too. If you’re scared, it make things more manageable – and that translates to all ages.”
Foxe is also passionate about doing yoga with children with special needs and teaches family yoga, both in groups and in private sessions at people’s houses.
For more information, see healingyoga.ie and yo-yoyoga.ie
Laura Sarah Dowdall with third class during their creative wellbeing session at Mount Anville Primary School, Stillorgan.