Without question, yoga and body awareness go hand in hand for both children and adults. Personally, when I first found yoga, it was for that main purpose - to embrace myself in the body I am in today. More and more I am seeing how extremely crucial finding a positive and healthy relationship with your body is becoming for children and teens. The article below, put out by CNN this morning, stresses this now more then ever in children as young as 7yrs old.
"-- A 7 year old announces that she's become a vegetarian because she loves animals. Then she starts eating less and less of her food. When her parents bring her into treatment, she is emaciated but pinches a tiny amount of flesh between her thumb and forefinger to illustrate "how fat" she really is. She is a full-blown anorexic.
-- A 10-year-old girl, newly back in the U.S. after her missionary parents return from overseas, feels guilty about the abundance of food she finds here when children in other parts of the world are starving. She cuts her food into smaller and smaller bites and eats fewer and fewer of them. Her parents have no idea she's anorexic until a pediatrician notes that though the girl has grown taller, she hasn't gained weight in more than a year.
-- An 8 year old whose parents are involved in a very messy divorce is frequently too upset to eat. The less she eats, the more concerned her parents become about her health. Soon the fighting virtually stops, transformed into a shared fear for their daughter. The family dynamic has shifted away from the divorce, and her parents have inadvertently reinforced the girl's eating disorder.
Stories like these alarm experts. Eating disorders are dangerous at any age, but when one isn't recognized in a child, or when treatment comes too late, the effects can be catastrophic."
What saddens me is that children are pounded with media images of "the perfect body". They hear parents or older siblings criticizing their bodies and talking about the latest diet fads. They become uncomfortable in their ever changing bodies and don't know how to react. And while we can't control what is being tossed in the faces of our children, we can give them skills to deal with these obstacles and teach them ways to love themselves for who they are.
"It's important for kids with eating disorders to learn to feel connected to their own bodies, as well as to identify their particular stressors and find ways to cope with them in ways that don't involve food. In therapy, the kids at Remuda Ranch (a residential treatment facility for eating disorders in Arizona) also learned to be critical of media messages, and through art, journaling, horseback riding or yoga, they worked to break the cycle of negative thoughts and develop the kind of self-esteem and overall wellness that will be a buffer against recurrence of the disease."
Through yoga we move and breathe in the bodies we are in today. I can't stress enough to my kids to listen to their bodies - do only what feels comfortable and breathe deep. I tell them the only body they should be concentrating on is the body on their own mat. Every body is different, so in yoga there is no comparing. Forming that awareness at a young age is so crucial in today's world. Luckily, through yoga that awareness becomes a FEELING - a feeling of self-love, self-confidence, self-respect, self-appreciation of body, mind, and spirit. When you FEEL something through your body in a relaxed state, it stays with you. It stays in your muscles, your tissues, your subconscious, and your heart. You embrace it, you make it your own, and you grow with it. That is the beauty of yoga.