The Physical Practice (Asana)
In Balanced and Barefoot, Angela J. Hanscom writes that as a whole children’s vestibular sense is weakening in comparison to previous generations. The vestibular sense is a person’s awareness of their body in space, their balance, their coordination. This sense helps the brain to negotiate how far to reach an arm to grab a pencil, how gently to pet with a baby rabbit, or where to move the arms on the monkey bars.
Vestibular sense is a crucial physical sense because when it is weak the likelihood of physical accidents, continual fidgeting, and physical discomfort while being still will be increased.
Yoga’s physical postures, called asanas, help to further develop and hone awareness of the physical world around the individual. The precision of micro-movements paired with the mobility of each posture, children will begin to hone their fine and gross motor skills more finely than peers not engaging in this type of purposeful physical activity.
“There are many people who have enormous suffering and don’t know how to handle it. For many people, it starts at a very young age. So why don’t our schools teach our young people the way to manage suffering?”
– Thich Nhat Hanh – No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering
Mindfulness is the ability to be with our suffering, whether it’s boredom, impatience, fear, anger, sadness. It is our ability to be present in the current moment, to notice these feelings and our current situation without letting it consume or overwhelm us.
Mindfulness is almost like someone observing a boat out at sea from the lighthouse, during the storms and placid waters. The lighthouse and it’s attendant can only shine the light outward to guide the ship home. The ship represents our consciousness, our mind. The water represents our situation and the lighthouse is mindfulness. We follow the light to guide our mind’s ships back to mindfulness, encourage the return to the present moment rather than allowing our ships to remain lost at sea.
Children are so present in the now, they are consumed by it, unconcerned with the past or future. Therefore, mindfulness is easily understood and attained. When we teach children mindfulness it provides them with an invaluable life skill of observance and acceptance that can be used as they grow and encounter life’s myriad of difficulties and sufferings.