To be able to balance is not just impressive; it is also an essential skill that young children need to gain as part of their development. You might think that they will obtain this skill on their own, but there is a direct relationship between children’s activity and their level of development: kids who are physically active will develop faster than sedentary kids.
Young children under the age of 3 cannot balance on one foot on their own… But they definitely can with a friend, teacher or a parent!
It is amazing how much more we can do when we do it TOGETHER!
Holding hands or supporting each other with arms over shoulders or waist, we can balance in poses while facing each other, standing side by side, back to back or one behind the other. It’s easy!
And it is not cheating… Our balance does improve immensely when doing yoga together. All while we learn many other important skills such as working together, communication and safe gentle supportive touch.
One of the leading principles we use in our classes is “success builds success”. If children feel successful in one achievement, it gives them the self-confidence they need to be more successful in their next endeavour.
Balancing with a friend or with mom and dad builds self-confidence and so it gives children the assurance they need to try even more daring yoga feats. It also helps children develop trust in their friends or parents, and it is an engaging way to deepen our connections without even needing to talk much.
But most importantly, balancing together makes yoga FUN!
Kids learn best through fun. And when yoga is engaging, interactive and fun, they want to do much more of it. And yes, it is always more fun to do yoga together!
Even older children might find it challenging to balance on their own in a pose like the Tree Pose, Dancer or Airplane for more than a few seconds. But if we start from where they are and build their confidence gradually, there is no limit to the incredible yoga tricks we can perform.
You might think that tricks and performance have no part in yoga, but for older children many time yoga is not interesting enough on its own, and making the class fun is just not enough… it has to be COOL!
So when standing in Tree Pose gets way to easy, we start balancing on top of each other spicing up the yoga class with some Acro-Balance and Human Pyramids. This is uber-cool!
And it is yoga. It increases our balance and flexibility, our coordination… and of course our balancing skills!
Yes, it is a bit risky… But it is not as dangerous as you might think. In the circus they say “no risk, no trick”, and besides, do you know what is the greatest risk in life? It is to take no risk. If we don’t take any risks, we stay stuck where we are.
When doing more acrobatic yoga in pairs or groups, we always assign an additional person to be the Mini Teacher. The Mini Teacher’s job is to make sure that everyone is safe. They are there with their hands ready to assist and to slow down the fall if anyone loses their balance. There is a lot to be learnt about caring for others and being present while being the Mini Teacher.
Kids fall all the time, even when they don’t do yoga. So it is a very small risk to try some more challenging balances and partner and group balances during a class while learning in a supportive environment.
Falling down has its benefits too… it teaches us to get up and try again. If we overprotect our children, hover over them and scaffold their development so much that they never fall; they simply don’t learn how to get up. Then every little tumble becomes a big emotional tragedy that they find hard to rise from.
I always try to pass on my very wise grandfather in-law’s motto “you fall, you get up”.
As parents, teachers, and as Mini Teachers, we don’t want to overprotect our yoga friends while they balance. If we hold on to them tightly while they are in a Headstand or a Handstand for example, they will never be able to find their own balance.
Keeping everyone safe is always our priority, and there is a wonderful technique we use to strike the right balance between safety and over helping… we call it Hot Potato.
In Hot Potato we never actually hold our friends when they balance because again it will inhibit them from finding their own balance. They are a “hot potato,” so they are too hot to hold on to. Instead, we just touch here and there, touching with our fingertips for a moment and letting go, without ever holding our friends. Try it, and you’ll be amazed at how fast your children or classmates will improve with their yoga balance!
Here is another awesome method you can try at home or in your classroom. It is the Protective Circle. We do it in a group of three and it can be done with most balancing poses, as an example lets try the Headstand.
As one friend prepares to come up into the Headstand the two others stand on either side of her and form a “wall” behind her by reaching toward each other and holding each other wrists. They can then hold onto the head-stander ankles and lift her up, or she can jump up into the Headstand Pose. The two standing partners now form the ‘Protective Circle’ around the head-stander legs by joining each others hands at the wrists. The head-stander stays safe from falling inside the Protective Circle while their legs bounce off her friends’ arms until she finds her own balance. It works!
The communication skills we can learn by balancing in yoga together with our parents or friends in the relaxed atmosphere of a yoga class can go a long way in helping us keep our cool and our connection to each other as we try to find balance also off our yoga mats and into our everyday beautiful lives.