Children and Flexibility
Many people I speak to are surprised when I tell them how many children and adolescents come to see me for flexibility training. “Why would a child need to stretch?” is the question I am often asked. But it’s true that now, more than ever, children need focused attention on flexibility as well as postural conditioning and strength training. In general, children’s bodies do possess greater mobility, but if it is not encouraged through proper movement they will become stiff, weak, and -worst of all- unaware of their bodies.
Most of us have heard of Osgood-Schlatter Disease, where the bone and soft tissue become inflamed during periods of growth. This can leave a protruding ‘bump’ or ‘spur’ that is apparent on the front of the lower leg, not to mention the irritation and discomfort caused to the young person. This is an extreme case of stress on a growing person’s body. Scoliosis also affects a great number of young people despite screening programmes.
In general, children have never been under more stress both academically and physically. Many more children are specialising in sports that require long practice hours. Poor eating and sleeping habits are factors that can further irritate the body in these vulnerable age groups, preventing a child from reaching his or her full physical and mental potential.
Active Isolated Stretching and strengthening offers a simple yet effective protocol to support each joint. This is a precursor for balance and alignment through the spine and hips, as well as consistent development of sound postural awareness. But positive effects on emotional wellbeing and the ability to relax are also being discovered. In New York City, more and more yoga classes are focused on children. These classes are gaining popularity among parents who have noticed improvements in both academics and behaviour when their children participate in consistent flexibility and movement training.
I have seen firsthand the powerful benefits to young people with scoliosis and chronic tension during growth. As the individual understands the movements and discovers the benefits of being flexible and having good posture, a direct improvement is seen in terms of greater confidence among their peers and enhanced performance in physical activities. Each session allows me, as the practitioner, to give gentle reminders and cues to help the individual maintain their new-found mobility and alignment, ensuring greater and more long lasting benefits.