I used to feel uncomfortable calling myself a Yogi because I felt that term was saved for yoga teachers and those who practice everyday. I couldn’t be a yogi when I still had so far to go on my two-plus year journey! Then I heard someone use the term Yoga Enthusiast, which I felt perfectly described my passion for yoga. I am highly interested and excited by this particular practice.
Now, three years later and five years into my practice I often refer to myself as a ‘Yoga Enthusiast’. This is not the only thing I have learned throughout my journey though. I have also learned that every yoga studio is filled with people from all different backgrounds, walks of life and skill levels, who are all there with the same goal. We all want some physical activity in our busy lives. To take a small portion of the day and focus solely on ourselves and improve our mental and physical flexibility.
Yoga, much like language acquisition, takes time, practice, and dedication. You don’t expect to do an upside down headstand the first time you walk into a studio. Similarly, you shouldn’t expect to be holding full conversations in a second language after just one or two classes. Consistent practice overtime will lead you to small victories, like touching your toes or conversing with a French waiter. These parallels might seem a little far-fetched for some, but I assure you these are valuable lessons that learning both yoga and French have taught me. I feel now that I would be ready to begin learning a new skill with greater ease as I am kinder to myself when I make mistakes and I understand the value of practice much better.
Benefits of yoga
Yoga has many more benefits as well, such as:
- Increased flexibility
- Increased muscle strength and tone
- Improved respiration, energy and vitality
- Increased happiness
- Improved cardio and circulatory health
- Improved focus
- Helps protect from injury
- Improved balance
All of these additional benefits make yoga great for kids! According to Yoga Journal, it “encourages self-esteem and body awareness at an early age with a physical activity that’s noncompetitive. Fostering cooperation and compassion—instead of opposition—is a great gift to give our children.” In addition, it helps children build concentration and learn to self-regulate their emotions at a crucial period in their growth.
Yoga also encourages deep breathing as a way to focus on your posture and relax, something that is more important today than ever before as children struggle with back problems connected to computer use and increased anxiety. Understanding these benefits, we at Camp Tournesol decided that integrating yoga practice into our summer day camps would create a more cooperative, compassionate, and calm environment overall. Now, we offer yoga every week in the summer as part of our fun-filled Friday programming!
How we integrate yoga within our programming
Our staff and campers have a great time doing yoga through our Yoga Bingo program. The activity encourages children to try poses while utilizing new French vocabulary for body movement. Campers are encouraged to wind down, and take time out of our crazy camp weeks to focus on themselves and what they are capable of. This is always a successful activity at camp because all too often campers are swept up in the hustle and bustle of a busy life, however, it is important to provide stillness in young people’s minds; a time to hear their inner voice.
How to begin practicing
Don’t be intimidated! Not many people are born naturally flexible or zen and most of us have to start from zero and work our way up to a comfortable level. If you have a quiet space in your home, lay out your mat and begin by putting on a YouTube video (we suggest the channel “Yoga with Adrienne”). These videos are usually only 10-20 minutes long, so you don’t have to jump right into hour long classes. If you do prefer having a teacher, it’s worth it to find a good studio near you. At studio classes, the teacher can help you adjust your poses to prevent injuries in the long term, not to mention being part of a the community can be a huge encouragement to keep you on track!
Next time you find yourself overwhelmed, take time to breathe and think about ways you can relax. Deep breathing can help improve your mood and allow time for self reflection. Practicing this breathing with your child as well helps to model self-care and let them know that it is okay to feel stressed and worried but that there are ways to cope with it. We hope these tips will encourage you to become a yoga enthusiast! You can join a club of one whether you practice once a week, once a month or once a year.
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We have also curated some additional resources that will help you kick-start your yoga journey:
Written By: Etelka Ziegler, Assistant Camp Director