by Lisa Flynn Most children are too young to understand what stress is but, according to many experts, children today suffer from stress now more than ever. Over the last few decades, we have created a culture which demands an extremely busy lifestyle. Our hurry up world of homework, over-scheduled activities, competitive sports, electronics/technology, and ultra busy parents creates an environment ripe for producing stress in children. Children living in the information age of today are bombarded with news of terrorism, war and violence, as well as by endless advertising and marketing pitches. Time spent watching television and playing computer and video games has replaced the time children used to spend outdoors in the natural world, using their imaginations, connecting with nature and getting exercise. Add to that the peer and media pressure aimed at children to wear, have and even ‘be’ the right things. For many children, it has become too much for their young, developing minds and bodies to absorb. With little to no coping mechanisms, these children often end up suffering chronic stress, which can lead to all kinds of health issues. Stress can manifest itself in many ways in children: night terrors, acting out, hyperactivity, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, lethargy, fearfulness, eating issues, and bed-wetting, to name a few. Obesity in children is also on the rise, to the point of being deemed an epidemic in the United States. With so much time being spent in front of TV and computers, children are not getting the exercise their bodies crave and need. Then again, fear of our children being harmed or even abducted has created a society where, as parents, we are afraid to even let our kids outside to play. Our increasing dependence on fast and over-processed foods only adds to the growing obesity problem. ADD / ADHD and diagnosis of Autism are increasing prevalent among our youth. Much of the above is to blame, but many feel the lifeless foods and toxins in our diets and environment are also responsible. Schools are reporting decreasing attention spans, concentration and social skills at a time when the ‘no child left behind’ mentality values results over process. This is a very challenging time for teachers, parents and children alike. Overall, children are suffering a lack of connection to their own bodies, their environment and the food they eat. This crosses socio-economic barriers – rich or poor, more and more kids today are overweight, have stress and anger issues, and attention and learning problems. There is a real separation of mind and body, with attention being focused outward to the ever-increasing distractions of the external world. Isolation from families and community is common. Children in poor and middle class families may see little of parents who work. In affluent families, the disconnect can be even greater. Rather than sitting down to dinner together, it is now quite common for children and parents to communicate mainly via text messaging. Some of the detrimental effects of these disconnections are above. Others include an inability to regulate one’s emotions, overeating or mindless eating, substance abuse, decreased ability to use one’s imagination, negative body image, low self-esteem, and a general lack of compassion, empathy and respect for oneself and others. Some believe this has translated into an increase in violence among children. Phew! Is that all reason enough?? While we live in a world full of war, drugs, crime, depression and toxic food, we must give our children every tool possible to assist them in counteracting a culture and environment that is potentially hazardous to their health and well-being. Through the use of yoga tools, stories and play, we can provide children with opportunities to grow physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, helping them to connect with themselves and others with compassion, understanding and clarity. Excerpted from the ChildLight Yoga Teacher Training Manual, Copyright 2007, 2008, 2009. To learn about ChildLight Yoga's programs for children, please visit our website. To learn how you can bring the gifts of yoga to the children in your community, attend a ChildLight Yoga weekend training near you. For more information about the ChildLight Yoga Teacher Training, CLICK HERE.

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