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Physical Health|14 June 2022

5 Asanas to help build strength and stamina in kids

Written by Varuna Shunglu
Varuna Shunglu is an author, lawyer, health counselor and meditation teacher. She consults with Schools to create wellness curriculums and has worked with over 10,000+ kids in the last 8 years. Degrees : BA(Hons), LLB, Msc Yogic Science, Teacher trainer World Yoga Federation and Yoga Alliance International.

Raghav is an eighth grader with high screen time who rarely goes out to play with friends. He feels tired during study hours and lacks concentration. When he does play a sport or performs any physical activity, he complains of aches in his legs and arms. Does your child face the same issues? This might be an indication of poor respiratory function and a call to increase strength and stamina. 

Respiratory function, along with optimal sleep and nutrition, plays a key role in muscle building, cardiovascular health and your child’s stamina. 

Strength and Stamina

Strength is the sheer force that one has. Stamina, on the other hand, means endurance. It is the capacity to perform a particular task up to an in-built limit that can increase with proper training. In 2016, The International Journal of Yoga confirmed that ‘Hatha Yoga can improve strength and flexibility’ while also helping control ‘respiration, heart rate, and metabolic rate to improve overall exercise capacity.’ This shows that yoga improves the balance in the body, which can assist in building muscle and improving stamina. 

Types of Movement in Yoga 

Asanas can be done as static holds, as often practised in the Hatha yoga style. This pose challenges the muscles and also uses body weight in isometric holds to build endurance. You can hold a pose for up to a few minutes.

Alternatively, you can practise yoga asanas in a flow or Vinyasa, which means moving from pose to pose like in Suryanamaskar or the ashtanga vinyasa series. The circuits, so to speak, build stamina and muscle memory. Children must begin practising vinyasa only once they are in middle school, not earlier. 

Preparing Children 

  1. Children’s yoga poses must always be supervised.
  2. Children must always use anti skid mats and rugs. Keep cushions around as padding to break a tumble. 
  3. Children should wear fitted clothes, so they don’t trip on any extra fabric. 
  4. Children should breathe throughout the poses and not hold their breath. 
  5. It is good for children to hold the poses for as long as possible, even if it’s just 5-10 seconds. 
  6. Children must warm up before getting into poses. Their warm-up routine could include running around, shaking their hands and feet, rotating their joints, or touching their toes. 
  7. Children must hydrate post the session.
  8. Children needn’t push themselves. They should only do as much as they can. 
  9. Consistent practice will build children’s strength and stamina.

Top Yoga Poses

Here are the top 5 poses/ asanas to introduce your children to yoga. These exercises for children will help them build their strength and stamina while simultaneously having fun. 

1. Aeroplane pose 

Steps

  1. Balance the body on one leg. 
  2. Both arms should be on your sides, parallel to your legs.
  3. Gently bend the upper body forward, and lift and stretch your right leg to the back until you create a T shape. 
  4. Hold for 5-10 counts, and return to the starting position. 
  5. Repeat on the other side. 

Benefits

  • Strengthens the thigh muscles, knees, calves and ankles. 
  • Improves balance and poise. 
  • Builds core strength. 
  • Precautions
  • In case of stiffness or injury, keep the balancing knee soft. Do not lock or overextend. 

Tip

Since children tend to tumble on their knees, you can keep a pillow in front of them until they learn to maintain balance. 

2. Caterpillar Plank pose to mountain

Steps

  1. Put your palms and feet on the floor.
  2. Lift your hips to form an inverted V position.
  3. Make your hands take steps in front of you until you are in a plank position. 
  4. Then get your legs forward by making them walk or jump. 
  5. Walk your hands forward once again from the inverted V to a plank. 
  6. Repeat for 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on your stamina. 

Benefits

  • Increases strength in shoulders, arms and wrists. 
  • Opens the hips. 
  • Improves spine mobility. 
  • Precautions 
  • Avoid this asana if you experience any back pain.

Tip

  • Try to perform the steps as fast as possible. 
  • Always use an anti skid mat for this asana. 
  • If required, you can take breaks in between. 

3. Frog Pose

Steps

  1. Squat down, bring your hands in front, jump forward, jump back and repeat! 
  2. Keep leaping back and forth, and jump as high as you can! 

Benefits

  • Strengthens the knees, core and spine. 
  • Improves endurance in your legs and thighs. 
  • Precautions 
  • Avoid this pose if you have knee pain. 

Tip

Enjoy this asana and stick your tongue out to catch some yummy flies! 

4. Camel Pose

Steps

  1. Bring your knees to the ground. 
  2. Gently place your hands on your spine and push your hips forward. 
  3. Stretch back as much as you can without straining. 
  4. Hold for 5-10 counts. 

Benefits

  • Strengthens the spine and makes it more flexible.
  • Improves range of motion in the hips. 
  • Activates the thyroid gland and regulates the hormones in the body. 

Precaution 

  • Be careful if you have a stiff, tight or injured lower back. 

Tip

  • Keep breathing normally through the pose to develop and oxygenate your muscles. 

5. Warrior Pose or Virabhadrasana

Steps

  1. Widen your legs. The space between them should be double the width of your hips. 
  2. First, point both toes to the right. 
  3. Bend the right knee and stretch your arms towards the sky as you join them overhead. 
  4. Hold for 5-10 counts, then switch legs. 

Benefits

  • Strengthens the nervous system. 
  • Boosts stamina in the spine, knees and the muscles around the knee. 
  • This pose is excellent for runners. 

Precautions 

  • Don’t widen the legs too much if you have a weak back or weak knees. 
  • In case of a knee injury, start slowly and increase the duration gradually. 

Tip

  • Challenge your balance by focusing your gaze on the sky. 

Yoga is a full body practice. Though certain poses target specific areas, the sequences help move into each pose as an integrated move. Ultimately, your child will have increased strength, physically and mentally, and more flexibility. Thus, yoga will not only improve their health but will also serve as a fun exercise for kids.

Children’s bodies can acclimatise easily, so it is important to start slowly and build their practice throughout their school life. ‘An open body creates an open mind’; a weak body can hinder your child’s passion and purpose in life. As they increase their strength and stamina, their mental clarity improves, making it easier for them to grow into balanced and dynamic individuals.

References:

  • Polsgrove MJ, Eggleston BM, Lockyer RJ. Impact of 10-weeks of yoga practice on flexibility and balance of college athletes. Int J Yoga. 2016 Jan-Jun;9
  • Akhtar P, Yardi S, Akhtar M. Effects of yoga on functional capacity and well being. Int J Yoga. 2013 Jan
  • Raub JA. Psychophysiologic effects of Hatha Yoga on musculoskeletal and cardiopulmonary function: a literature review. J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Dec

The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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