Main Street Mom, November 2003
A frightening new trend in modern society is obesity in children. Youngsters who are spending more and more time in front of computers, video games, and television also face the possibility of retarded muscle development, inadequate blood flow, and poor bowel functions. An increase in any type of exercise is crucial, but some children are not interested in competitive sports.
Recently many families feel they have found a solution in an exercise regimen that has been around for more than five thousand years! They are trying yoga. Even Entertainment Weekly magazine has written in a recent issue about "schoolkids doing yoga," while Rolling Stone magazine just did an article about obesity in America's youngsters. Children need and love yoga exercises. Picture a little three-year-old rolling around on top of a giant purple yoga ball, a child who is five on a colorful foam mat bending and twisting his or her body to make it look like different animals, or a ten-year-old taking pride in holding an asana pose for the full count given them by an instructor. Yoga helps youngsters stretch and tone their muscles, keeps their blood flow and internal organs in a healthier state, and assists them in learning relaxation techniques.
This month we interview Wai Lana, who is considered to be one of the best known and most popular yoga instructors in the world. Through her internationally aired television series (on PBS in the United States), plus videos, musical albums, and books, Wai Lana regularly assists millions of people in utilizing yoga to improve their lives physically, mentally, and spiritually. Now she has expanded her yoga instruction to specifically assist children with the just-released Wai Lana's Little Yogis hour-long DVD or video (also available as a kit with mat, bag, and poster). Her products are available in stores or at her website.
Wai Lana says, "Yoga is so versatile that anyone of any age can do it. Small children can begin simply by watching and imitating others who are doing it. Older children can be challenged by the more energetic yoga exercises which strengthen and build growing bodies. I have three children. From the time they were born, they have been vegetarians and practitioners of yoga. "The real goal of yoga is not how well you do a pose physically, but how much you are getting out of the exercises that you do. Are you learning to breathe more deeply? Do you feel your muscles releasing? Do you feel more calm and content inside? Children learn from what is around them, and if they grow up around yoga, they will have this valuable knowledge to use as teens and young adults. Think of how much closer families would be if they all got together in the morning or the evening to do yoga together!"
Wai Lana points out that yoga is one of the few exercises that the entire family can do together whether the group includes small children, teens, young adults, parents, and even grandparents. It also is an exercise that can be beneficial even in short time slots, whether it is ten minutes in the morning before work and school, or fifteen minutes in the evening after the last TV show. Adults are doing a bit of yoga on their lunch breaks, and many schoolteachers are incorporating yoga exercises into their classroom teachings. Of course, yoga can be done virtually anywhere, especially on the lawn or any carpeted surface, with no direct instruction. But many practitioners like to have a yoga mat to kneel or lie on, and prefer having an instructor, whether from a television show, video, or CD. Wai Lana says that getting into a regular routine is one of the most valuable aspects of doing yoga because it is a "good habit" instead of a "bad habit" like snacking on junk food between meals or wasting time channel-surfing TV with no specific purpose.
In her videos and on her TV show, Wai Lana is known for her colorful costumes, fresh flower headdresses and floral adornments, exotic and beautiful outdoor settings, her softly soothing vocal instructions, and her method of following the stretching portions with uplifting dancing and then a time of meditation. The shows are filmed on location where there are backdrops of stunning scenery, often by the ocean, a stream, or the mountains (the snow-covered peaks of New Zealand; the coast of Hawaii; Malibu, California; or Sedona, Arizona). She also helps create the music heard in the background.
According to Wai Lana, "Yoga brings great pleasure and satisfaction. We learn to relax while developing a stronger and healthier body. We learn to let go of mental stress. And through yoga meditation, we begin to feel fulfilled within. With yoga, you can relax, stretch, tone, and strengthen your body while at the same time you calm your mind. It helps you lose weight, increase circulation, build flexibility, relieve stress, avoid injury, breathe better, and renew energy. It is important for people to take time for themselves, to improve their body and mind. "Yoga is about uncovering and discovering the beauty and pleasure and contentment that is already there. For example, our bodies know how to feel good and be healthy, and yoga asanas help to bring the body back to its natural state of health and relaxation. This is important for anyone at any age, but what could be better than to introduce the benefits of yoga to children at a young age in hopes that this is something they can continue to use their whole lives to make them look and feel better."