We all know that Yoga has innumerable benefits, especially for children. Starting the practice of yoga at a young age helps children to develop holistically. We got in a conversation with Sabrina Merchant, a passionate mompreneur who strongly believes that children are natural yogis from birth.
Sabrina has been practicing yoga for over ten years and in 2018 she quit her successful career as a Chartered Accountant to follow her passion for yoga and start her venture Li’l Yogis, to guide children towards a healthier lifestyle.
Here’s what she has to say about the importance of yoga in a child’s daily life.
ThinkRight.me (TRM): How did yoga become a part of your lifestyle?
Sabrina Merchant (SM): Like most things in life, my mother introduced me to the word “YOGA”. No, she wasn’t an avid yoga practitioner, but I often heard her talk about yoga and the benefits it had. My second encounter was in secondary school. My teacher was a middle-aged lady who always had a beautiful smile on her face. However, I personally found yoga in school very boring. At that point I really didn’t understand the whole concept of “Breathe in, Breathe Out” nor did I want to ever get to know it deeper. Health was something that was always important to me. I tried out various forms of fitness, right from kickboxing, weight trying, spinning etc. Yoga wasn’t constant then, but somehow, I always went back to it. I always felt there was much more to Yoga than what I understood and wanted to explore it further.
As it is rightly said, “When the student is ready, the Teacher appears”. I met my teacher – Pramila. Pramila made me fall in love with yoga. She introduced that side of yoga to me which no-one had done before. At the end of every class she gave us this note with words that ignited the spiritual side of our being. A thought that I dwelled upon and tried to comprehend, till I met her in the next class and got something new to ponder upon. Her sessions helped me connect to my spiritual and inner self. I started understanding myself better.
TRM: Why do you think yoga should be a part of the daily routine for children and how does it affect them?
SM: Yoga has immense benefits for kids. More than the physical aspect, yoga helps kids stay connected and become aware of their body and breath.
Here are the benefits of introducing yoga to kids at an early age:
Physical- Cooped indoor, yoga is a great way helps them move with awareness and in turn help build strength and endurance. Yoga poses help them to not just get physically stronger but also helps in improving their immunity.
Mental and Emotional- The various breathing exercises practised in yoga helps kids connect with their breath and help them understand their emotions. Kids also learn to identify and handle their negative and positive emotions based on their breathing pattern. It helps them maintain an emotional and mental balance.
Spiritual- Various mindfulness techniques like journaling and reflecting upon your day, helps kids get to know their true inner self better which in turn helps them cope up with peer pressure, addictions and failures.
TRM: What motivated you to teach start Li’l Yogis and share your love of Yoga with others?
SM: The concept of Li’l Yogis came into existence in December 2018 when I decided to pass on my love and passion for yoga to my 5-year-old daughter Iqra. I used innovative and creative
methods to make yoga interesting for her. I got my formal 200 hours of teachers training from The Yoga Institute (Mumbai) and also appeared for the Ayush level exam and converted my own personal terrace into an open-air yoga studio for kids. That’s how it all started.
TRM: How do you envision Li’l Yogis in the future?
SM: Li’l Yogis aims to support and benefit each and every child attending the class. The classes help build attention span, encourages creativity, ingenuity and positive thinking. The basic yogic values like kindness, gratitude, self-discipline and honesty are inculcated. The children are encouraged to use these values and skills in their everyday lives. This helps children become mentally and physically stronger.
In the last 2 and a half years, Li’l Yogis has taught more than 8000 kids and crossed many milestones. It has received multiple coverages in leading publications like Mumbai Mirror, Mid-day, Hindustan Times etc. I also featured in a 26 episode series called Mother’s Menu on Living Foodz channel. Collaborations with brands like High Street Phoenix mall, Safari Kids International School, Market City Phoenix, etc have taken the brand to new heights. We’ve also conducted various corporate online sessions with leading MNC like P&G, Hamleys, Yes Bank, Kotak Mahindra, etc.
TRM: What does a typical day look like for you? Any specific mindfulness activities that you follow to ensure you give your hundred percent to the day?
SM: My days are super busy. While I am constantly juggling various roles, I make sure to get some ME time. I try planning my day in advance and often follow schedules to make sure I am not overstressed about unfinished business. I also try and communicate things clearly in order to avoid any disappointment.
Starting my day with mediation and breathwork helps me a lot. I am an “Early to bed early to rise” kind of a person. I try and set realistic timelines, and also look at prioritising things I need to do.
TRM: What will be your advice for parents who want to help their kids to start their own yoga journey?
SM: So, use yoga as a healthy way to bond with your child and gift them a practise that they will always value and cherish all though their life.
Dos and Don’ts to start your kid’s yoga practice:
- DO NOT insist too much on the having the perfect form in the poses (asanas). Remember their bodies are still developing.
- Avoid any breath instructions while practising the poses.
- You want your child to practise yoga as lifestyle, make it fun. It can be a part of their daily routine. One needs to follow it as an everyday practise in order to enjoy all its benefits.
- During breathing exercises, DO NOT ask them to HOLD their breath. The natural rhythm of their breath is just perfect. DO NOT alter it.
- Inculcate the habit of Journaling. It really helps them reflect and connect with themselves.
TRM: 5 things that children and even parents can do every day to maintain their emotional and physical wellbeing.
- Spend quality time together. Choose activities where everyone can be involved.
- Have a no gadget hour for the family. Ideally before bedtime.
- Eat meals together.
- Practice journaling together.
- Start your day with meditation.
We hope this guides you to help your kid adopt yoga as a daily practice.