In the last eight to ten years, yoga has become not only popular with adults but also with children. Children benefit enormously from yoga. Our children live in a very fast paced world, which can have a profound effect on their emotional lives and not always in a positive way. Yoga can help counter the many pressures that children experience.
In 2002, shortly after I received my first yoga certification, I volunteered to teach yoga to second graders at a public school in Manhattan. It was an eye opening experience, which I was not prepared for. The children were pretty tough on each other and even tougher on me. In retrospect they taught me how to teach them. It was one of the most challenging and yet satisfying experiences I have ever had. Watching the kids go from yelling at and hitting each other to caring for each other during meditation was truly a beautiful and transformational experience. It taught me first hand what many studies have since proven.
Yoga teaches kids skills of self-awareness and self-care that the medical profession has determined are the key contributors to lifetime health and wellness. The positive and noninvasive effects of yoga include improved self-esteem, emotional equilibrium, more energy and the ability to self-calm. Studies have proven that yoga helps children and teens with body image issues, poor eating habits, anorexia and even those who have suffered traumatic abuse. Other studies have shown that children who practice yoga are not only better able to regulate their emotions, manage stress, and calm themselves but they may also choose better foods to eat and engage in more physical activity than children who do not.
A 2003 California State University, Los Angeles, study conducted at the Accelerated School (TAS) in South Central L.A., found a positive correlation between yoga-class participation and academic success, physical fitness, behavior, and self-esteem among elementary and middle school children. Yoga has also been proven to enhance concentration, creativity, and responsible behavior. It has also been attributed to reducing violence in school.
Yoga addresses the mind/body connection and teaches specific tools that support health and wellbeing. Yoga focuses on the integration of the breath and movement. Students learn to become aware of the body/mind connection and learn tools for shifting from a state of stress to feeling centered; from angry to calm anytime they choose. They learn that they can consciously make a positive choice through utilizing self control tools they learn in yoga class.
More Benefits of Yoga for Children
• Yoga promotes physical, mental and emotional health
• Yoga is non-competitive
• Yoga teaches stress management
• Yoga is a low-cost way to prevent some illnesses
• Yoga teaches focus and discipline
• Yoga expands body awareness and sense of self
• Yoga brings an experience of inner harmony
• Yoga teaches cooperation, compassion and non-violence
• Yoga promotes relaxation and renewal
• Yoga improves creativity, critical thinking, language skills
• Yoga enhances interpersonal and intrapersonal skills
• Yoga develops social/emotional intelligence
• Yoga promotes greater learning
Calm and self-assured children learn better. They are able to manage their daily challenges more successfully. Through practicing yoga poses, pranayama (breathing techniques), visualization, meditation and deep relaxation learning abilities improve. The dynamic postures maintain flexibility, strengthen muscles and improve coordination and balance. The breathing exercises help calm the mind, boost memory retention and energy levels.
As children grow and become pre-teens and teens, the regular physical and mental discipline that yoga offers helps to channel emotions in a positive manner. Yoga teaches that we are all connected which helps children understand the values of helping and respecting each other.
Yoga for kids is very different than yoga for adults and varies according to the age of the children. In general it is very playful and incorporates music, dance, improvisation and at times the use of toys, props and musical instruments. The yoga poses appeal to children as they can assume the role of animals, trees, flowers and warriors. They can bark in dog pose, hiss in the cobra and meow and moo in cat/cow pose. Sound is a great release for children as well as adults.
There are many yoga programs for children already in place at public and private schools. Yoga has been incorporated into many physical education curriculums. Yoga classes and resources are also available at private studios for children around the country. If you are interested in teaching your children yoga at home, books are available at all major bookstores.
References: Yoga Ed, Next Generation Yoga, and Yoga Journal
Published On: August 19, 2010