fitness · yoga

Workplace wellness extending to the nursery

Last week I saw this video by the BBC about London’s youngest yogis. A yoga program for small children is being piloted in some London nursery day care centers, with the goal of providing the tots with inner strength for battling the stresses of modern city life in the 21st century.  Here’s what it looks like:

Toddlers on yoga mats, crouching and standing, one with head between knees.
Toddlers on yoga mats, crouching and standing, one with head between knees.

Honestly, to me it looks like any day at any nursery with any group of kids.  When they have a space which allows it, children regularly move around every which way.

But this is movement with a purpose.

The purpose, according to the CEO of a nursery company in the UK, is to address the lack of feelings of stability, of calm, of safety in a sometimes-dangerous and mostly-urban world. She says in the video,

Where do children get quiet? Where do children just get a time to be? Where do children get space, just to feel safe and able to just do a deep breath? 

The idea, it seems, is to institute a playplace wellness program at nurseries to help kiddos identify when they’re feeling sad or mad or upset or stressed, and to teach them movements (kiddy yoga and other things) to address those feelings.

We’ve written about workplace wellness programs on this blog before. Here are some of them:

Work, wellness, and weighty matters by Natalie

Problems with workplace wellness programs: where do I start? by Catherine (me)

There are also numerous posts about team step challenges and other sorts of workplace challenges by Tracy, Sam and others. Here’s a new one:

New job, new fitness challenge?#uoguelph by Sam

What’s the tl:dr version of all these posts? For individuals in particular workplace challenge programs, mileage varies.  Some find that them fun, and others find them stressful or interfering with their regular physical activity routine.

Looking at them in general, though, there are a number of problems.  First, they don’t actually seem to work— that is, they don’t tend to result in increased health among workers enrolled in the programs. Second, and more worrisome, is that many of the causes of stress and ill health are found in the workplace itself– long hours, uncompensated duties, no accommodation for life issues, short vacation time, lack of control over work time, etc.  Fixing those features of work life will make a world of difference (as opposed to offering a 7am meditation class in the conference room before work).

But back to the London tots and the word of that CEO. Where do children get space to move, breath, play, rest, and enjoy life?  How about in their homes, in their schools, in parks in their neighborhoods, in museums and playgrounds and pools and lakes and beaches and woods?  That is what we need to be working on and identifying and speaking out about.  Creating little zones of mini-serenity for children isn’t going to fool them into thinking the world is a happy-go-lucky place. Let’s get working on making neighborhoods safer, housing better, jobs more plentiful and better-paying, and healthcare more accessible for all.

I know, I know– these are all idealistic and massively difficult goals.  But so is doing this:

A woman in a balancing pose with one leg behind her head and the other against her right arm, in the air. Yeah.
A woman in a balancing pose with one leg behind her head and the other against her right arm, in the air. Yeah.

Some goals are very very very hard, but worth working toward. Even small progress in this respect makes a difference.

3 thoughts on “Workplace wellness extending to the nursery

  1. I feel so mixed about this. I love the idea of movement with a purpose, but children (and adults!) also need to move without a purpose. Plus, it seems a bit of a bandaid, as you point out. Still (and here I’ll contradict my own self, for the mixed response part)–if kids aren’t getting any peace at home, it’s good if there’s somewhere that it’s modeled and embodied for them.

    1. HI Mina and thanks for your comments. I agree with your mixed feelings– I am mixed too. I am glad that nursery schools are starting kids off with dedicated time for movement, quiet, looking inward, etc. This is all good. At the same time, the world itself has many structural features that systematically undermine our abilities to tune into ourselves and focus on movement and stillness. And this world is one in which very few toddlers have the opportunity to be taught these things. All of which you know. So there you go… 🙂

  2. Mixed feelings, for sure. I agree with you about the bigger system issues, and I can also imagine a program like that being something kids would really enjoy. When I visited with family recently, my young nieces were fascinated by my yoga practice and seemed to really like following along with me. So kids would probably enjoy yoga in daycares, AND we need to make the world a better place from them. Then the issue becomes finding the balance of resources and conversation devoted to each.

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