You already know how helpful yoga is for your mind, body, and spirit. Well, the benefits of yoga for kids are quite similar and more attainable than you might think.
Yogis believe a flexible body and an open mind go hand in hand. A natural style of parenting believes loving hearts, common sense, and open minds are the keys to bringing the peace and compassion that the planet needs more than ever.
How Can Yoga Benefit Children?
Yoga is the coordination of specific postures with breathing, meditation, and concentration to focus and calm the mind. There is an increasing interest in the use of yoga for children to quiet the mind and increase overall health and well-being.
As a yoga instructor, I have had the pleasure of teaching children over the past ten years in both school and after school programs, yoga studios, as well as camps and hospitals.
Emphasis on individual abilities rather than competition makes yoga appropriate for all children, including those with physical limitations and lack of involvement in organized sports. Yoga provides a non-threatening and gentle method to increase physical fitness and enhance health and wellbeing.
Introducing a mindfulness practice such as yoga can benefit children of all ages, establishing a foundation of wellbeing that will support them throughout their lives.
The Benefits of Yoga for Kids
Yoga provides different growth opportunities as children mature. For toddlers, yoga plants a seed, building confidence, body awareness, and a focus on the breath as a tool for centering. They begin to understand that it feels good to breath, stretch, and play.
For school-age children, yoga nurtures their growth; improving balance, focus, self-acceptance and acceptance of others. Kids at this age are able to teach a pose to their peers in class – reaffirming the noncompetitive nature of yoga. For pre-teens and teens, yoga encourages open hearts, minds, and bodies to build self-esteem, confidence, and cooperation. They delight in “challenge poses” – like half moon and handstand – and will tap into their lessons on the mat during challenging times at school or sports.
The benefits of yoga for kids include:
- calming anxiety and hyperactivity
- reducing obesity
- curbing discipline problems
- controlling anger and panic attacks
- enhancing imagination, concentration, and academic performance
Health problems likes headaches, stomachaches, constipation, and colds are reportedly improved with a yoga practice, as well as a decreased need for medication for children with attention deficit disorder.
How to Practice Yoga With Kids
Whether you take your child to a yoga class or just begin a practice at home, the poses should be adapted to the child’s individual developmental and physical needs.
The focus is less on the perfection of postures and more on the cultivation of compassion, non-judgment, connection between breath and postures, and introducing the foundations of a life-long practice.
Common components necessary when teaching yoga to children include the environment and atmosphere, parts of the yoga session, and recommended length of class. The environment may be a room away from distractions with the lights low, a yoga mat and soft music playing.
Many kids love breathing exercises, poses, age-appropriate games, and relaxation. For example, a favorite breathing exercise for the five to eight year olds is becoming a deflated balloon and then visualizing someone coming to their mat and blowing air into their balloons.
The children inhale the air through their nose and grow to become beautiful balloons, which then “float” off their mat around the classroom.
A Yoga Practice to Share with Your Child
Begin in a comfortable seated position (like crisscross applesauce). Take a deep breath in. As you breathe out, make the sound “Om” (or A-U-M) to steady your mind, signal the beginning of your practice, and acknowledge your connection to everything in our vast universe.
Roll onto hands and knees, in tabletop position. Press the floor away and hug your belly toward your spine; arching your back into cat pose. Give your best “Meow.” Then drop your belly, lift your heart and “Moo” with delight; taking the shape of cow pose. Alternating between cat and cow pose creates a simple vinyasa; linking breath and movement and warming up your spine. Cat / Cow is a balanced flow, pairing flexion (exhale to arch) and extension (inhale as your belly drops).
Stand and take three mini Sun Salues to energize your whole body. Inhale; stretch your arms up like the sun’s rays. Exhale, fold forward and touch your toes; wiggling your fingers like falling raindrops as you dive down. Inhale, lift your chest and gaze past your toes to lengthen your spine. Exhale and fold forward again. As you inhale rise up to stand; reaching your arms wide overhead. Exhale your hands to your heart. That’s one sun salute. Repeat two more, moving with your breath.
Return to sit with the soles of your feet touching and knees out; becoming a butterfly. Lift and lower your knees to flap them like wings. Make two antennas with your fingers above your ears. Butterfly pose stretches our inner thighs, reminds us sit up straight and tall, and keeps our joints and tummy organs healthy and strong. Butterflies remind us of the beauty of change.
Through the practice of yoga, you will realize that your breath will help you handle changes in your life with grace.
How Often Should Kids Practice Yoga to See the Benefits?
The frequency of practice is recommended at least one time per week. Ideally, four to six times per week is best to enjoy the cumulative benefits of yoga. The length of your session depends on the attention span and developmental age of the students.
They might just surprise you with how flexible their little bodies are… OR how quiet and still they can be when you give them the task of focusing on the breath.
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