Visit art teacher Claire Reily’s house in Saltburn, North Yorkshire, and you may well find her two energetic boys, Kitt, four, and Rufus, two, peacefully watching cartoons on YouTube about animals such as Pedro the penguin. But here’s the real surprise: Pedro is practising yoga poses – and so are Kitt and Rufus. ‘Kitt is bright but a bit of a handful and needs a lot of stimulation,’ Claire explains, ‘and Rufus has a dodgy leg which grows bent, so he has to wear a splint. They love the stories in the yoga videos and the exercise has been wonderful for both of them, helping Kitt to focus while encouraging Rufus to strengthen his leg.’
Pedro’s video is just one of more than 100 different Cosmic Kids yoga adventures (www.cosmickids.com) devised especially for children by British yoga teacher Jaime Amor since 2012 – and viewed by over 12.5 million children, parents and teachers worldwide. ‘Every session is an adventure we go on together using yoga poses to act out the story,’ explains Jaime. ‘We might go diving in the ocean or soaring through space. We meet fun characters and become the heroes of the story.’
As well as providing physical benefits such as strength, coordination and balance (particularly good for Rufus), nearly 90 per cent of parents and teachers surveyed report an improvement in children’s behaviour (eg, becoming more considerate of others’ feelings) and ability to focus.
‘We explore issues such as bullying and dealing with frustration, learn to consider our options if these situations arise, and practise techniques that will help us,’ says Jaime. ‘Using breathing to calm down is the big one. Children who are prone to anxiety or have trouble sleeping learn to breathe consciously and we even hear about kids calming themselves down from tantrums.’ Practising yoga is also particularly good for children with autistic spectrum disorders and dyspraxia.
Also, one parent told Jaime how much Cosmic Kids had helped her nine-year-old daughter recover after undergoing treatment for a brain tumour. ‘Kitt and Rufus love practising yoga so much that they ask me to put on Cosmic Kids for them before school,’ says Claire. ‘Kitt tells his friends about the stories and shows them the poses.’
Yoga mats are not all kind to humans or the environment. Some are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC ), one of the most toxic plastics, according to yoga teacher Cheryl MacDonald (www.cherylmacdonaldyoga.com). But there is a range of greener options. TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) foam is a recyclable mix of rubber and plastic, which is durable andlightweight. Natural rubber is the most environmentally friendly choice with no harmful chemicals, and the latest offerings have eliminated early models’ pong. Here are our YOU favourites chosen by yoga teacher Victoria Woodhall:
Yogabellies PeaceLoveYoga mat/£79 at www.amazon.co.uk. A natural rubber mat topped with an antibacterial microfibre layer; machine washable, biodegradable and free of harmful chemicals, dyes and glues. Great for dynamic practice, it is also safe to use during pregnancy and with infants. It is thin at 3.5mm thick, so place on a carpet or rug if you are sensitive.
Liforme Yoga Mat/£100 at www.yogamatters.com. Mostly natural rubber (with an eco-friendly polyurethane top layer), this wipe-clean mat has grid lines to help alignment and offers great grip even when sweaty. Wider than standard, it feels more cushioned than its 4.2mm thickness suggests, doesn’t curl when unrolled and is extremely durable. Comes with a ventilated nylon bag.
Lotus Pro Yoga Mat/£36 at www.yogabliss.co.uk. Lightweight at 1.1kg but well-cushioned (6mm thick), this double sided, TPE foam mat is a good all-rounder and textured for grip. Wipe clean or hand wash.
Yogamasti Y Travel Yoga Mat/£30 at www.yogabliss.co.uk. A thin (3mm), lightweight (0.65kg), double-sided and easy-to-clean TPE foam mat. Fantastic grip and ideal for taking on retreats, but not suitable for everyday pounding.
WEBSITE OF THE WEEK: www.carersweek.org
It’s the last day of Carers Week 2016, but there is still time to recommend carer-friendly organisations, services and employers – and invite others to use the checklist and commit tobecoming carer-friendly.