Radiant Child Yoga with Shakta Khalsa
Jun 28, 2014 06:34AM
Alongside the surge of adults taking up yoga, there is an equivalent boom in yoga classes for children. But children’s yoga is much more than a cuter version of adult yoga. Shakta Khalsa, founder of Radiant Child Yoga, says when she works with children, she always sees them as “big souls in little bodies.”
Khalsa’s yoga classes for children are a mix of playful movements, joyful songs and affirmations. The children quickly reflect the positive effects of yoga—particularly so with small children who “are never very far from their spirit. It’s just right there under the surface,” Khalsa says.
Khalsa has been teaching yoga to children for 35 years and now travels nine months of the year, leading Radiant Child Yoga programs for therapists, parents and yoga instructors. She has trained children’s yoga instructors on every continent and created a line of yoga books, CDs and DVDs for children and adults.
She began practicing kundalini yoga in the early 1970s and incorporated many of its unique exercises and techniques in children’s yoga. She developed Radiant Child Yoga as a way to teach self-regulation skills for all children but found it turned out to be especially helpful for children with autism, ADHD and other sensory integration issues. Simple exercises like crossing the arm over the midline of the body help to re-pattern the brain. Other movements activate the pituitary and hypothalamus glands, the “feel good” glands in the body.
She incorporated exercises from kundalini yoga into the children’s yoga program. Khalsa says, “Many exercises that we do don’t look like hatha yoga, but they really help with balancing the brain, help with centering and focus and organizing the nervous system.”
She also finds that children’s yoga is quite different from adult yoga. “It’s not about them doing the perfect tree pose. It is about them enjoying who they are and being able to take that with them.”
She hears many success stories of children who have utilized their yoga lessons in stressful moments. When a three year-old girl noticed her mother becoming upset about something, she told her mom to take a big balloon breath in and wiggle it out to release some of the stress.
Contrary to adult yoga programs, which require extensive training, Khalsa’s Radiant Child Yoga Level One course can be completed in as little as three days. Khalsa said it is helpful for trainees to have a basic understanding of the purpose of yoga and meditation, that it is more than just physical education for children. But, the main requirements for prospective teachers are simply an understanding of and love for children, as well as some degree of ease with children.
About half of the people Khalsa trains already work with children in a professional capacity, such as teachers and therapists. Others are simply parents who want to use it in their day-to-day life with their children. They can just incorporate yoga as part of their day, when they get up in the morning, say, “Let’s do some stretches before you go to school today.”
The Fly Like A Butterfly book, and the Happy and Cozy CDs are extremely popular with small children who easily memorize the uplifting and calming songs. Khalsa’s series of Yoga Warrior cards, which show robots doing yoga, are a huge hit with autistic boys.
Khalsa says children naturally apply yoga in their day to day life. “It gives them tools to help themselves.” One young boy told his mother that when he starts getting frustrated at school, he crawls under his desk and whispers the words to the “Brave and Bold” song to himself and quickly feels better. Another parent used the breathing exercise with a feather, when her son was frustrated and disturbed. She would make a game of it, blowing on the feather, which helped him to focus and calm down while having fun.
Khalsa will be teaching Radiant Child Yoga programs locally, throughout the summer. When she resumes traveling in the fall, the programs continue through the dozens of active teachers that she has trained over the years. Find her class schedule, her books and CDs at ChildrensYoga.com.
Terri Carr is a D.C.-based freelance writer who blogs at yogaSOULutions.com.