Sasha Quince teaches yoga at Teddy Bear American Nursery in Abu Dhabi.
Sasha Quince teaches yoga at Teddy Bear American Nursery in Abu Dhabi.

Yoga for the youngsters



When I was a child, PE lessons generally consisted of a heated game of rounders in the park, followed by a packet of plain crisps and a soggy cheese sandwich. Now, you're more likely to find the little ones in a yoga studio, slowly stretching into downward-facing dog and concluding their efforts with a gentle "namaste". How times have changed.

Yoga for kids is becoming more and more commonplace, as parents begin to realise that they're not the only ones who can benefit from the mind-soothing effects of regular practice. Even Gwyneth Paltrow's children are reportedly part of the young yogi brigade.

There is good reason for this. Studies show that children and teenagers reap psychological rewards from yoga; research led by Jessica Noggle of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, found that students in grades 11 and 12 who practised yoga experienced positive psychological effects, such as an improvement in negative emotions. The researchers noted that since mental health disorders commonly develop during the teenage years, yoga might serve a preventative role in adolescent mental health.

But you don't need to wait for teenage angst to set in before ferrying your child off to an emergency yoga retreat, as even the younger ones benefit. According to Sasha Quince, a yoga teacher and the founder of Let's Go Yoga in Abu Dhabi, these benefits include improved coordination, motor skills, self-control, concentration and discipline, and an increase in confidence and self-esteem.

The demand for kids' yoga seems to be increasing, too, as more and more classes are popping up in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

"I believe the popularity is growing for the same reason that yoga for adults is so popular," says Quince, whose weekly classes accommodate children from as young as three. "During practice, we discover what is good for us and understand that yoga is not a competitive sport, rather, it is about the joy of movement and self-improvement. As an adult or child, once you experience a class you tend to feel really good when you leave."

The yoga teacher explains how the various poses and movements in a typical class for kids develop strength, posture and flexibility, while the breathing exercises not only teach children how to use their breath properly, but show them how the breath, body and mind are all connected.

"The games involved in a typical class help balance children's energy levels so that after the session, those who are extremely active will tend to be calm and children who are more quiet tend to become more alert," she explains. Yoga was the perfect choice for Nesli Simonutti's daughter, Alessia, who is five. Simonutti, who works in market intelligence in Abu Dhabi, started taking her daughter to yoga classes last October.

"I wanted her to try something different, make new friends and get a sense of a different culture. Yoga was perfect for Alessia since she doesn't like chaos or activities where there is too much running around. She enjoys the calm, organised and reflective nature of yoga," she says.

Simonutti believes yoga has helped her daughter come out of her shell and that it encourages children to think about their movements. "Kids can see how good it feels to put their body into shapes and stretch in different ways," she explains. "They can also relate to us a bit better when we tell them we want to sit down for five minutes and relax."

So the next time your little ones are destroying the house while on a sugar high, it's worth considering the yogic route of parenting. Ask them to lie down in "savasana" (on their backs, arms and legs spread at about 45 degrees) and to remain there as long as possible. Then put the kettle on and enjoy the silence for however long it lasts.

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone


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