Children today can find themselves under a lot of pressure.

Homework, competition with other children, exams, endless after-school activities and over-scheduling all add up.

But a possible solution is growing in popularity across Sussex and helping children to relax and focus their minds: Yoga.

Hopscotch Nursery in Brighton is one of an increasing number of places to teach youngsters the basics of the exercise.

Yoga instructor Savita Burke has been taking one hour classes for a few months at the nursery and staff are amazed at the effect on the children.

They say the youngsters are more calm and ready to face the day ahead.

Yoga can also help them develop better body awareness, self-control, flexibility and coordination.

The combinations of stengthening, stretching and relaxing exercises inspire children to use their imagination while helping to improve their fitness, posture and concentration.

Increased interest in yoga follows revelations about the declining health of children in the UK .

A recent study by the British Heart Foundation revealed that one in three children between the ages of two and seven are not achieving the minimum recommended levels of exercise.

In particular, the number of obese six year olds has doubled in the past ten years and there has been a sharp increase in the number of children suffering from asthma.

Regular yoga exercises can help tackle problems such as asthma and obesity which can lead to heart disease and diabetes in later life.

Margaret Arthur's daughter Claire has been trying out a new video specifically designed to encourage children to try out various yoga postures and get into exercise.

She said: "Claire was born premature at 29 weeks, causing some lung damage and leaving her very susceptible.

"Before she started yoga, she was off school for three months with a chest infection and unable to play outside like other kids.

"Since taking up yoga she has not had any repercussions and is fitter, healthier and much more supple than before."

Yoga can also improve children's sleep patterns as well as focus concentration both at school and at home.

Children who practice yoga can enjoy greater physical strength, better flexibility and creativity, as well as improved and more efficient breathing techniques.

Yoga is non-competitive so children can work at their own pace and quickly learn to recognise and value their own achievements.

Another way of attracting children to yoga is to take advantage of the many postures that have been developed following observation of the natural world.

Children are more likely to get interested in copying the shapes and movements of birds, fish and other animals than simply being told to do exercises.

Instilling an exercise habit in children at an early age encourages participation in regular exercise into adulthood.

There are several different yoga poses children can learn. One is the dog and cat, which increases the flexibilty of the spine. This is really two poses, one flowing into the other.

The person starts on their hands and knees, keeping their hands just in front of their shoulders and their legs about a hip-width apart.

He or she then breathes in, tilting the tailbone and pelvis up and lifting the head up.

They then breathe out, tilting the pelvis down, drawing the spine up and pulling the chest and stomach in.

The yoga video, called Colin The Cobra's Forest Of Secrets, will be available to buy on VHS and DVD from September 23.

It shows 21 basic poses children can do, along with a special relaxation session.

For more information
about yoga, visit the British Wheel of Yoga's south eastern region web site at