Yoga for Children

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Children need not be told to practise yoga. Psychological experiments and a lot of observations discovered the truth that children imbibe everything from their parents and elders. If you do your yoga regularly, your children will practise too. Children do imbibe the spiritual qualities, and it is not necessary that you give lessons on yoga or lessons on spiritual life. Give them the yogic atmosphere.

There is a natural law which controls and guides everything, not only in children but also in the fabric of the whole universe. Every chemical action, every physical action, every mental or emotional action, has a law. Just as you have laws in mathematics, similarly there are psychological and emotional laws. These laws are known by various names such as the laws of nature, and the doctrine of karma in philosophy. When the laws permit, children will start practising yoga either at the age of six, seven, eight or ten. Children are always guided by the laws of nature.

Parents’ whims

Parents are always concerned about their children, and this concern is guided by attachment. They are over impatient because they have funny ideas of perfection; they have funny ideas of progress and limited ideas about the development in children. The way they want their children to develop is a limited and narrow way because they are narrow. Their mental capacities are not broad. Their ethical values are restricted and narrow and they are not aware of the law of nature. Most parents have formulated social, moral, and ethical laws on the basis of their whims and fancies.

Their plans about teaching yoga to their children cannot be accurate. It can be wrong because if they teach surya namaskara, salutation to the sun, and bhujangasana, the cobra pose, to a child of six, his structure will be disturbed, and the hormonal processes could be accelerated. They may be putting undue strain on the thyroid glands. Later, at the age of twelve, the child could become like a football, or suffer from hyperthyroid or hypothyroid.

Parents’ knowledge about themselves, and the events and processes in the body of a child are so limited. Parents are ignorant. They don’t even know how to give birth, how the child has to be conceived, how his genes or DNA have to be influenced when he is in the womb. There are many mythological stories which shed a light on the possibility of influencing the genetic structure, DNA structure and molecular structure of the child, but how many parents can do it?

Children are not allowed to be free but they are tempered and tempered. They are pushed into modes of behaviour which are not natural to them. Parents cast the shadow of their personality on the children. Parents want their children to be religious, to speak the truth and never tell lies. Children should not insult the parents but always obey them. They should talk sweet and behave in what is called a ‘positive’ way. But these ways are only exaggerated moral fantasies.

Need for mistakes

Children must make mistakes. They must tell lies and do mischief. Childhood is the age when the mind has to grow, when the brain has to grow. Without conflict the brain can not grow. Therefore, in a society the children who are very good are also very dull. The children who are mischievous develop fast because the growth of a child is related to the growth of the brain, to the grey matter. The grey matter will only grow when there is conflict.

This must also be kept in mind in regard to yoga. Yoga should not be pressed or imposed on children. When they grow up and become eighteen, nineteen and twenty they can be told about yoga. At that age, they understand and appreciate the physiological, biological, therapeutic, spiritual, and moral values. At the age of eight, they cannot understand when they are told to practise yoga and become a good boy or girl.

Need for progress

What is goodness after all? Goodness is a concept which has to come after intellectual growth. Actual goodness – I do not understand. Goodness is a relative term. What is goodness in one age doesn’t remain goodness at other times. Many values in our social and religious concepts are relative to time, to social, economic and political conditions.

This is how the whole community has to be disciplined. The code of discipline in the form of religion, morality, and ethics has to change from time to time. It cannot remain the same. The people who expect a static order, who believe in a static order, will have a society which will remain static. Progress, economy, and intellectual growth will stagnate. The best thing to do is to live the way you would like your children to live and they will imbibe your lifestyle. Therefore, keep your children free and let them learn only through imbibing.

—15 June 1987, Ganga Darshan, Munger, India