Being a child is to live in constant change! It’s to have a mind and a body that grow continually, exposed to many external stimuli such as adult stress, excessive electronic stimulation, allied to less time to play. All this leads to a lesser connection of the child to his physical, emotional and mental body, which leads to greater difficulty in being aware of himself and his emotions in relation to the outside world.
In recent years there has been an increase hyperactivity in children and young people, concentration difficulties, low of the immune system, less physical resistance, less flexibility and conflicting or even violent behavior. Chi Kung actually helps to improve all these parameters.
In today’s world there is an increasing pressure, such as school rankings, the need for ever higher ratings to achieve a better future, which determines a great competition in all areas of life. It is urgent to train children with knowledge related to stress management, so that they can maintain their inner peace and find solutions to the various challenges that arise in their lives. That’s why the practice of Chi Kung is so important.
During nine years of Chi Kung practice with children between the ages of three and ten, at Carolina Michaëlis School (2007/2016) in Lisbon, it was verified that the group became calmer and concentrate during the day, there was a reduction in conflicts and absences due to illness decreased. Teachers and parents reported that the children seemed happier and the children, in turn, participated in the class willingly and not wanted to miss.
Initially a weekly practice of 30 minutes was planned but soon it was possible to extend with success to a 50 minutes practice. To motivate children, it is essential to create a supportive environment, to arouse curiosity and perform the exercises using the imagination. Humor and fantasy helps to foster a good environment. For full practice it is important for the child to visualize and interiorize. The visualization promotes creativity and in body expression the child evidences the emotions, ideas and feelings about the practice. There must always be freedom for the child to express their emotions, the basis of communication with others.
Learning through practice and let the child natural correcting their posture / movement, always respecting their stage of growth and development is essential. But it’s necessary to encourage new exercises or challenges, and promote the determination not to give up. With practice children will feel satisfaction in overcoming the difficulties and challenges of Chi Kung exercises. Encouraging and not allowing children to feel afraid of making mistakes is fundamental because inhibitions are an obstacle to the development of the child’s potential as a human being. Encouraging the children to overcome challenges is a preparation for life.
It is important to perform different exercises and add some more fun exercise for the dynamic of the practice. In the child’s development it’s essential for them to become aware of the different parts of his body, and here the practice of self-massage is an excellent resource. There are exercises that can be done individually, in pairs or in small groups. Make use of different materials and explore them freely or in a more structured way. For example, tennis balls for self-massage and tree postures, balloons for tree postures, soap balls or windmills for breathing exercises. In the movements with animal names it is possible to speak about their attributes and in those related to images of the nature, like the lake, the rainbow, its reference helps to amplify the movement. It is necessary to adapt some exercises to the age and show pictures to captivate. For example, anatomy pictures helps children become more interested in exercises, make them more aware of movement, their body and their energy. In many it helped to improve the posture, especially the forward bent shoulders that almost all children already present, and to improve breathing.
In practice with children it can be included breathing exercises, self-massage and hetero-massage, stretching, the 18 movements of Tai Chi Chi Kung, concentration, meditation and relaxation. In spring the system of Yi Jin Jing is much appreciated. The tree posture, decidedly, is the exercise that the children less like but, overcoming the initial annoyance, they can perform the basic postures. For some children the Wuji posture is a challenge.
As a rule, children are not interested in large explanations, they want to go directly to the practice and are fast to perceive and execute the movement but they don’t like many repetitions, they soon want a new exercise. In the course of practice, the energy of the group becomes more harmonious and the children calmer and more concentrated. From there their ability to repeat the movement increases. On the other hand, they are not too interested in knowing the therapeutic benefits, they just want to know some stories and have fun. But very elaborate stories are not necessary, children build their own if they feel needed. In the course of practice, questions begin to arise spontaneously, one after the other! Children are usually curious, natural, and very expressive and outspoken in their observations.
The connection between body, emotion and mind is a constant that is promoted in the practice of Chi Kung. Each child is different and absorbs and processes information differently, whether through looking, listening, moving or touching. By using different stimuli we help the children to develop multiple emotional, mental, corporeal and spiritual aspects. No children learn at the same speed and in the same way, each has its own time, but continued practice allows a balance on the whole group.
It has been concluded, in these years of practice with children, that Chi Kung promotes psycho-motor and bio-energetic development, balance and coordination, benefits the respiratory capacity and stimulates concentration and memory.
There was always an improvement in the management of emotions and it was a precious help for the child to integrate into different groups and to increase self-awareness and self-esteem.
It was very important to note that, on other times of their lives, children were able to use effectively the relaxation techniques they learned.
The practice of Chi Kung promotes respect and self-esteem in the child, the development of harmonious movements, the perception of his body and energy, and the finding, in breathing exercises and meditation, of a place of peace and inner calm.