We must let children discover yoga through their own rhythm and comfort, says Sabrina Merchant
By Shilpi Madan
Sabrina Merchant is a parent in progress, having founded Li'l Yogis last year. Driven by the passion to get the little ones to practice the ancient Indian treatise, Sabrina has now put together the flow of her classes, as they roll out in suburban Mumbai, in the form of a book Ocean Yoga.
A chartered accountant by qualification, Sabrina has found her calling in working with children and is a certified kids expert from The Yoga Institute as well. Excerpts from a conversation for Express Parenting:
What does yoga mean to you?
It is a spiritual journey towards inner self.
What prompted you to take up yoga for children?
I had been practicing yoga for over 10 years when I decided to teach my six-year-old to take it up as well. That is when I realised her lack of flexibility. Children need company, and her friends joined in too. At that point I decided to gain proper qualification in Kids Yoga and thereafter started taking classes. It has been a beautiful learning experience as children teach you aplenty in return too.
Kids doing yoga
All kids don't like yoga. Some find it boring.
That is the main challenge, to make sessions interesting for kids. Each class has a theme: a desert, a rainforest, an ocean...the asanas are taught in keeping with the theme. I have been conducting workshops pan-India. From the point of view of reaching out to many more children, I have authored a book Ocean Yoga that captures the teachings as they unfurl in class.
Why "Ocean" Yoga?
The two characters in the book are engaged in a story for which the setting is the ocean. Each page brings in an asana. For example, moving in a boat introduces the children to "naukasana". In the same way, as each session carries learning. The emphasis is on yoga through values.
In your experience, how has this centred the kids?
Practice brings in self-discipline and better focus. Especially today, when kids have a short attention span and tell you they are feeling bored, every other instant. The idea is to let kids be. Yoga must never be forced. Yoga teaches you that it is fine to fall. If you cannot touch your toes, it is fine. Slowly, steadily the goals are met. We must let children discover yoga through their own rhythm and comfort. The flexibility follows. Catching them young gives them an early start to a healthy future. The idea is not to teach. The idea is to transform.
Share with us one way in which you have been able to bring introspection in kids.
I do a fruit meditation session where I place different fruits in front of children. One child, on eating a raisin with her eyes closed, identified it as a green apple. That is what screen consumption does: we as parents tend to use the television, iPad, smartphone as an electronic babysitter and just get our children to shove the food in, while their eyes are glued to the screen. They eat mechanically, without tasting, enjoying, experiencing their food. This session then came as an eye-opener for the kid. The mother of the child was overjoyed as the child subsequently did not take to watching the screen while eating. This is just one of the many small ways in which we can effect change. That is the beauty of yoga.