Now that yoga is everywhere in Western culture, inevitably, myths have sprung up. You probably have heard a few, and maybe wondered about them yourself. Below you’ll find explanations for the most common yoga myths. This should help debunk misinformation, offer a deeper understanding of yoga, and ease any doubts or lingering fears you may have about the practice itself.
Myth #1. Yoga is a religion. I must have Buddhist or Hindu beliefs to practice yoga.
Yoga is a discipline, not a religion. You can be a practicing Christian, Jew, Muslim, or adhere to no belief system at all and still do yoga. Yoga is a way of life, for adults and children alike. The guidelines to a yogic lifestyle set forth by Pantajali include universal principles providing us with tools for living a life of purity in body and mind ; yoga postures to purify the physical body through structured movement, stretching, strengthening, and balance work; and conscious breath work and meditation practices to calm the body/mind system. Together, these practices pave the way toward spiritual exploration. So, rather than enforcing a doctrine, yoga gives kids a tool for spiritual exploration. Indeed, yoga nurtures the hearts, minds, and bodies of children (and adults) without violating the individual beliefs of their families, and may even deepen children’s connections to their families’ beliefs,
Myth #2: You must be a vegetarian or eat all raw foods to be a yogi. You can eat anything you want and still be a yogi.
Be warned, though: Being a practicing yogi, you may eventually gravitate toward vegetarianism, since yoga encourages peaceful living. Even though you don’t need to follow any special diet to practice yoga, healthy eating is an important aspect of the yoga lifestyle. In yoga, sattva is defined as the quality of purity or goodness. A recommended yoga diet is sattvic, made up of whole, fresh foods that are minimally processed. Foods with a high sugar content and caffeinated beverages are considered rojasic, or agitating, and shelf-stable foods that are highly processed are considered tomasic, or energy-draining.
Within the United States, foods are also sorted into categories, based on their nutritional makeup and value. The USDA categorizes foods into five food groups, and sets guidelines for how much to each from each category. In 2005, the U S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute created new categories for foods that are even easier for kids to understand: “Go Foods,” “Slow Foods,” and “Whoa Foods ” . Whichever food guidelines your family follows, always remember: “You are what you eat Food has an enormous effect on the body. What you feed your child will affect his ability to regulate his body and moods, sleep well, stay fit, and learn. While its not necessary to follow any special eating regimen to practice yoga. eating healthfully is an integral part of supporting your child’s yoga practice and the many wonderful and beneficial effects that will emerge as you and your child build a practice together.
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Being “mindful” means to pay close attention to what we are doing at any given moment. Eating mindfully means paying attention to what we eat and to the process of eating. Mindful eaters sit down, appreciate their food, and eat slowly and deliberately. Thorough chewing ensures food is digested properly and necessary nutrients are delivered effectively throughout the body. You can encourage your child to be a mindful eater. Help him record everything he eats for one week, thinking about how his choices compare with recommendations in this section. Repeat the process in a month to see if anything has changed. If no improvements are noted, encourage your child to keep trying! Small changes add up to big changes over time. Bring him to the market and read labels together, discuss options, and make better choices together. Sit down with your child during meals, and make dinner a ritual of slow, mindful eating!
Myth #3: You need to be super flexible and in great physical shape to practice yoga. Anyone can practice yoga.
Asana, or physical posture, is the focus of just one of the eight limbs of yoga, yet it is probably the most recognized aspect of yoga in our Western culture. Essentially, if you can breathe, you can do yoga, Our individual yoga practices will vary based on our unique physical abilities, and there are acceptable modifications for just about every pose. There is chair yoga, beginner yoga, wheelchair yoga, yoga for the bedridden, yoga for sports injuries, prenatal yoga, and yoga for a variety of special needs and medical conditions. Yoga is for everybody! (Note: If your child has a specific medical condition, a doctor should be consulted before involving him in any type of yoga practice.)
Myth #4 To meditate, you need to chant “Om” for hours in a quiet room.
There are many ways to meditate. In fact, the physical yoga practice itself is considered a “moving meditation.” Om or no om, if you’re practicing yoga, you’re meditating on some level. Meditation refers to a set of practices and techniques designed to bring the mind into a state of stillness. It sounds easy enough, but if you’ve tried it, you know it is not quite as simple as it sounds. Our minds tend to be quite active and our attention darts here and there. This is especially true for children! The word “meditation” can bring many stereotypical images to mind. You may think of a person sitting in Lotus Pose chanting a mantra, such as “Om” (A-U-M). This is the media’s favorite depiction of meditation and why it is the most recognized. In fact, there are several types of meditation practices available to help us train the body and mind and to come into the present moment. Some people sit in silence with their eyes closed, using a mantra or repeated phrase as a point of focus. This can be an effective way to focus and begin to settle their active minds. For others, simply focusing on the breath, a visual image, a phrase, or a concept works well. Even mindful walking, running, swimming, and other physical activities can serve as forms of meditation. Your personality type may be drawn to different types of meditation practices. No one approach is superior to another. In fact, focusing on just about anything can help quiet and clear the mind.
With that said, most child-friendly meditation practices are in fact practices in mindful awareness. Children can “meditate,” but the word has a different meaning for them than it does for adults. In fact, with children we primarily focus on helping them and bring their awareness inward (pratyhara), a precursor to meditation on the eight limbed path of classical yoga. Since young children are sensing their environment rather than projecting out onto it, it’s most important for parents to be practicing meditation, modeling, and carrying that energy into the home for children to see and sense. Now that we’ve explored the basics of yoga and the most common myths associated with it, you should have a solid understanding of the practice itself. In the next chapter, we’ll explore the many benefits associated with the practice and how they apply to your child and to your family. Truly, bringing yoga into your home is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and your child!