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  • Writer's pictureadollopofyoga

Spinal Series for Kids

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When it comes to kids' posture, things have taken a turn for the worse in the past twenty years. Unfortunately over time, the activities kids engage in for "fun" have deeply compromised the spine. When we adults were kids, it's fair to say that most of us came home from school, had a snack, then ran outside until our mothers called us in for dinner. We jumped rope and shot baskets. We rollerbladed and played handball on garages and skateboarded in the streets. Sure, kids still engage in some of these activities, but we all know they spend much more time with their eyes glued to an electronic device in lieu of good ol' fashioned fun.

The impact of increased technology use on a cognitive and emotional level has been widely researched, but what is often overlooked is the way in which the spine is altered due to hours and hours of slouching. When kids fall into the depths of Snapchat and YouTube videos, the neck is typically angled downward at their phones, and the spine was not intended to spend such lengths of time in this position. What's more, the act of playing videogames also introduces spinal curvature. Picture this: a child is sitting on the couch, holding a remote control in both hands. His or her shoulders are curled over the remote while the head is elevated to view the television. Now, let's assume that this child is spending upwards of five or six hours a day in this position. The effects over time are certainly worrisome!

But matters are even more dire given that many children are now doing schoolwork at home, spending even more hours seated and staring at a screen. As a parent myself, I noticed that my son was regularly slouched over in bed while participating in hours of Zoom meetings for school. Therefore, before we get into how yoga can help, correct ergonomics are key point worth mentioning. Invest in a quality office chair like this one from SitRight. Make sure your child's desk is adjusted to the correct height, so he or she is not overextending their spine or tilting the head at an unnatural angle. Introducing a standing desk can also help; I like this one because it is adjustable for both seated and standing positions.

Ergonomics play an important role in good posture, but here are some spinal exercises worth facilitating to help your kiddos maintain a straighter spine. The first is simply to instruct your children to sit in a simple seat, cross-legged or on the knees, hands resting on the thighs. Ask them to close their eyes and mindfully notice the posture. They might imagine a thread pulling them straight upward from the crown of the head. Next, ask kids to roll their shoulders back and down, relaxing them. At this point, some guided questions might be asked to prompt children to examine how it feels to sit in this straight posture. How do they feel differently? Does this posture impart a greater sense of self-confidence? Does it feel awkward or unusual in any way? Meaningful discussion can assist kids in understanding the differences they will begin to sense and how those differences affect the mind.

To take this posture a step further, ask children to imagine that there is a pencil in between the shoulder blades. For the sake of illustration, you may even place a real pencil there, explicitly depicting what it is they are imagining. Now, for ten seconds at a time, they will pinch the shoulder blades together, pretending they are holding that pencil in place. Then allow them to relax for ten seconds before resuming for several more cycles. This exercise strengthens the shoulder blades, those muscles responsible for good posture.

The following poses are part of a suggested yoga spinal series to further strengthen the spine. We will begin with Cobra Pose. Instruct children to lay belly down on their mat, chin to the mat. Tell them to place their hands, face up or down, to the sides of the chest. Their legs will be zippered together, tops of the feet driving into the ground and remaining there for the length of the pose. Have them breathe in, then exhale, removing all of the stale air from the lungs. Finally, ask them to lift the chest and chin up, inhaling and exhaling for several breaths. There should be little to no weight in the hands. In fact, you might prompt children to raise their hands gently off the mat to ensure they are not placing their weight there. Release and repeat.

The next posture, Superman Pose, is rather fun for kids because they get to pretend they are Superman! Following Cobra Pose, ask children to return their chin to the mat. Feet may now move six inches apart and arms will form a T-shape, or alternatively, rotate behind them like airplane wings. Again, instruct kids to let go of all of the air in their lungs. On your cue, they will pull everything up: arms, legs, chin, and pointed toes. Tell them to fly like Superman! Repeat.

A counterpose will help children release the spine in a resting posture. Two options are Child's Pose or Embryo Pose. To practice the latter, prompt children to begin by sitting up on the knees then to fold over them, arms resting by the sides. They may choose to rock their third eye, or forehead, on the mat. Encourage them to relax in this pose! After all, calming the mind in this way is so much more effective than staring at a small screen- am I right?

Cheers to straight spines and good vibes. Namaste.

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