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    News — balance

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    Yoga and Balance Boards

    I've been thinking a lot about how balance boards are important and incorporated into yoga.  I teach a few yoga classes a week, and in all of my classes, I include balance boards.  I don't have enough for all of the children, but I always bring a few to share.  The kids love them and always race to the boards when they see them.  Sometimes they jump on and pretend to be surfing on the boards. Their imaginations go wild.  Other times, they take off their shoes, lie down on the board, and get comfy.  Overall, they love to move and rock from side to side on the board, like people do on a rocking chair.  It's soothing. It's therapeutic.  "It's fun!" they say.

    I've noticed that all the yoga poses that we do can be done on the board. I thought at first that the kids wouldn't want to "jump like a frog" or wouldn't like sitting down on the board, as it's hard...but they do.  They love it.  And when I ask them if they prefer a yoga mat or balance board, they inevitably excitedly say: "balance board!"  At first I thought it was just because it was a novelty item and that the novelty would wear away.  But it hasn't, and if anything, the children are thrilled to show me a new pose that they can do on the board, or a pose that they couldn't do before and now they can.  They have the biggest grins on their faces and feel so proud of their accomplishments.  "Look at me and what I can do now!"

    Balance boards help in a number of ways. For one, it's a great workout for the body.  Even when the children are rocking side to side, they are working out their core muscles. Secondly, it helps increase their balance and focus.  It's more challenging to do the yoga poses on the balance boards, because of the instability of the board.  Without realizing it, the children have to concentrate more on balancing.  It's a mind and body workout.  Lastly, and most importantly...the boards are entertaining and have a "cool" factor.  Isn't that what all kids want?

    Sun Salutation

    Sun Salutation or Surya Namaskar is a series of 8 poses which are usually performed in the morning or evening to greet or say thank you to the sun.  Without the sun, there would be no life.  It's something that we can count on every day.  Even if you don't have time to do a whole yoga class every day, Sun Salutations are a great way to start the day....or end the day.  I like to do them at the beach while I watch the sunset.  Or, sometimes it's nice to wake up when it's still dark outside and greet the sun.  Kids love the flow, especially when there's a chant or song to go along with it.  My daughter likes to listen to her favorite music while she does Sun Salutation, and teens especially love this series of poses to do along with many popular songs that are being played right now.

    Sun Salutations can be done in the classroom to get the blood circulating, which delivers blood and nutrients to the brain.  It helps kids focus and is a great little "workout" to teach them, which they can share with their family or friends.

    Here's a quick rundown of how the flow goes. 


    1)    Start with Mountain Pose. Find your center and take a deep breath in and exhale slowly.

     2)    Second, inhale and bring your arms up over your head to the sky, reaching your heart and arms to greet the sun.

    3)    Then, exhale slowly and bend over into a forward bend, touching your hands to the ground.

    4)    Inhale and lengthen your spine forward….you should feel the stretch in your legs and arms.

    5)    Exhale and step your feet back behind you into Plank Pose (feet apart, wrists flat on the floor and shoulder width apart like a push up). Take a full breath, making sure that you are not dragging your hips.

    6)    Then exhale and lower down onto the ground, so that your belly and body are still.

    7)    Inhale and lift your chest like a snake. Pull your shoulders back and open up your heart.

    8)    Exhale and roll over your toes into Downward Dog. Remain here for a few breaths. Feel your spine lengthen and your legs stretch. This is a great inverted pose to get blood to your head and heart.

    9)    Bend your knees and look between your hands. Inhale and hop or step your feet between your hands.

    10)  Slowly come up into Mountain pose and then past Mountain pose-reaching up to the sky again to say thank you to the sun.


     Repeat Sun Salutation 5 times, remembering to breath and move slowly through each pose.

    There are some great websites and Youtube videos on how to do Sun Salutation.  I like to use the balance board for this sequence because it keeps my body in line and adds for an extra bit of challenge. 



    A balancing act

    Activities that promote balance are more and more important for kids these days.  I spend a lot of time at playgrounds and started to notice that there are some great playground equipment which promotes balance as well as other development.  Sometimes we wonder the importance of all these playground equipment pieces, besides being fun.  Well, after a bit of research and knowledge of children's development, here's what I found:

    Monkey Bars: improves upper-body muscular strength
and endurance and promotes hand-eye coordination, kinesthetic awareness, and rhythmic body movement. Monkey bars are way more fun when you act like a monkey! Ooh ooh, Ah ah.

    Climbing Wall: enhances spatial awareness and arm and leg coordination. It also advances the development of body management skills on stable and unstable apparatuses. Climbing fosters whole-body muscular strength, endurance and flexibility. Climbing promotes balance.

    Swinging: integrates a smooth and synchronized movement pattern. It emphasizes the importance of timely energy transfer during movement. Swinging also promotes aerobic fitness, muscular force, and whole-body awareness.

    Sliding: enhances core stability, dynamic balance, and leg and hip flexibility. It provides a body and spatial awareness movement experience.

    Spinning: develops kinesthetic awareness and 
postural control. It improves comprehension of speed, force, and directional qualities of movement.

    Balance boards, rocks, beams, and bridges: increases understanding of efficient body positioning and control when stationary or moving. Balance promotes muscular strength and endurance throughout the entire body.


    Best Sports for kids

    Sports are great for kids.  They not only teach them about teamwork and good sportsmanship, but they are good for getting the heart rate going and keeping kids fit and healthy.  The most important thing to remember when choosing a sport for your child is finding something that your child is interested in.  It's also wise to choose a sport which is safe, fun, and age appropriate.  For example, soccer and yoga can be started at a very early age. They both help with fine and gross motor skills.  However, archery would probably be best for older kids, as arm strength and good eye-hand coordination is essential.  A good coach or trainer is a must.  Make sure the coach knows about safety and first aid. The coach should also be respectful to the children. 

    Here are some other sports that kids enjoy doing:

    tumbling, gymnastics, karate or other type of martial arts, swimming, diving,  dance, bicycling, jump roping, tennis, sailing, rowing, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, basketball, baseball, softball, golf, lacrosse, horseback riding, volleyball, cheerleading, bowling, cross country running, track and field and more.

    Even though sports have so many great benefits, remember that some are more dangerous than others when it comes to accidents and injuries.  For example, soccer and football can cause a lot of injuries and head traumas.  Yet, swimming and yoga are very gentle on the body and equally beneficial (if not more).  When choosing a sport, remember that children's bodies are continually growing and that safety is imperative. 

    Make sure that your child is wearing the correct gear.  Also, they should also stay in shape and stay flexible (remember to stretch).  Your child should get a check-up or physical exam before starting a sport to make sure he or she is ready developmentally and physically for the activity.  And remember to wear sunscreen, stay cool, and hydrated.  Heat-related injuries happen more than we know it.

    Don't worry if your child isn't ready to start a sport in Kindergarten.  There are so many great activities to do, which will help your child in their growth and development outside of a team sport.  Running around and playing at a park, climbing trees in a forest, or digging and running in the sand at the beach is equally important for kids.  Just as long as they are moving. 





    Spinning and Twirling

    Spinning and twirling helps with balance.


    Have you ever noticed how much fun children have spinning around and around and around?  I remember growing up, my friends and I loved going in circles and making ourselves silly dizzy.  Even some adults still like to twirl.  Look at the Olympics for example.  We are always amazed at the power, focus, and balance that figure skaters have when they spin at amazing speeds.

    I heard recently that spinning is good for a child.  I mentioned it to a father at the park, and he responded: "Yes, I heard it was good, too."  So, when I got home I did a bit of research and found out that yes, it is in fact good for you in some respects, but it can also be  (that's why our body sometimes tells us to stop by causing us to get nauseous).  Here are a few tips that I found from the website www.asensorylife.com  and thought I'd share. 


    • Spinning needs to be controlled, supervised, and monitored with our children who have sensory differences and SPD (sensory processing disorder)
    • Teach your child to spin no more than 10 times in one direction at 1 spin per second...then stop briefly, then spin the other direction
    • For those children who do not get dizzy, encourage spinning in prone extension (on tummy) to help the brain learn to register the feeling of rotary input, along with following the two items above
    • Spinning is incredibly powerful and the brain may need a long time to process the input
    • Swinging in linear planes in prone extension and full body flexion are so much more important and beneficial for the brain in regards to the power sensation of vestibular input.  Focus more on this type of swinging rather than so much spinning.