Yoga for children, even for very young children, is on the rise. A beneficial practice for its promoters, incidental for some specialists.
“Yoga baby 2 years”, “yoga baby at what age”, “yoga baby happy”… On the internet, research related to yoga for children, even infants, are numerous. The books devoted to the subject are equally so, from Great book of yoga for children at 52 yoga postures for children. And parent-baby yoga or family yoga classes are spreading, showing a keen interest in the subject.
“The practice is developing”, assures BFMTV.com Brigitte Anne Neveux, honorary president of the French Federation of hatha yoga and yoga teacher. This former inspector of National Education, responsible for the IUFM of Moselle for the training of school teachers, is not innocent of the development of this activity: for thirty years, she has been one of the most fervent advocates of children’s yoga.
Yoga “for all ages”
“You can do yoga at all ages of life,” says Brigitte Anne Neveux, also author of Yoga and children. “And from early childhood.” If it is not, strictly speaking, yoga classes, this former inspector evokes a “connection of children with these techniques”.
“Yoga is a mediation. I did it with kindergarten children, even with babies who went to nursery.”
The psychomotrician Catherine Lefevre, representative of the French Federation of psychomotricians, boasts of multiple contributions for the youngest: both in terms of balance, coordination, dissociation, flexibility, strength or even precision of movement.
“Yoga allows the child to put in place learning, particularly at the level of motor components such as control of tone, inhibition, and parameters such as rhythm, slowness, acceleration”, assures- she at BFMTV.com.
A useful practice to “focus”?
For Alice Guyon, yoga even has every interest in entering school. “In Western school education, there is little room for the internalization of the body”, regrets this CNRS researcher in neuroscience at the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, who has worked on the benefits of body-mind disciplines. (including yoga, tai-chi and qi-gong).
“These approaches, such as yoga or sophrology, make it possible to develop emotional intelligence, to observe one’s sensations, to calm one’s breathing and to listen to one’s body without this contradicting the school achievements.
“It is a resource that can help the child in his schooling to resist disturbances, to concentrate, to gain resilience and self-confidence.”
A controversial subject
During the philosophical workshops that Alice Guyon leads from CE1 to CM2, before each session, she offers children a “practice of attention”, a kind of short meditation to channel their energy and improve their concentration. In her training for teachers, Brigitte Anne Neveux evokes yoga as a time to refocus children or offer them a break between two school sequences.
“After sitting for 45 minutes, you can get your body moving again, get up, stretch, massage yourself. At school, you learn the know-how. Yoga develops soft skills, it tames the mind. In this, he has his place in class.”
But if for some, this type of meditative practice in class is obvious, others are worried about it. Jean-Michel Blanquer was alerted to the holding of “mindfulness meditation” workshops – a technique distinct from yoga – in certain schools, presented in the form of “relaxation workshops” or “breathing” exercises or “of meditation”.
Associations and unions had risen up, judging that they involved “significant risks” and “uncertain consequences (…) on the psychological development of children”.
On a scientific level, various studies have established the benefits of yoga in adults: reduction of depressive symptoms from two to three sessions per week, decrease in anxiety or strengthening the immune system in patients with breast cancer. But in children, no such evaluation has been carried out.
This is why pediatric neurologist Catherine Billard is more reserved on the subject. If she recognizes that yoga is part of a set of “methods” that can “relax” children, she does not go so far as to boast of benefits on motor skills, concentration or management of emotions.
“Anything we can do to help children who have learning difficulties, who are anxious or agitated is good to take”, notes for BFMTV.com this specialist in cognitive development, who coordinated a screening experience for learning disabilities.
“It can also help the teacher in the management of the class. But what is at stake is only in terms of well-being.”
“Everyone can more or less feel the benefits of yoga, but I can’t say that it has any real positive impact on children, especially in terms of learning,” explains Catherine Billard. For this neuropediatrician, “it’s about cosmetics”.
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