In prehistoric times, it was acceptable to leave a raucous and angry child outside the cave for the neighborhood Tyrannosaurus Rex to growl at. But mankind has evolved since those days. Now, children who act up should be talked to, reasoned with, and hopefully made to understand that running up and down the aisles at the grocery store setting things on fire isn’t a positive form of self-expression. Still, there are tantrums and meltdowns galore. What’s a modern parent to do? Thankfully, there’s yoga for kids.
Let Them Bend So They Don’t Break: Benefits of Yoga for Kids
As physical, spiritual and mental disciplines go, yoga certainly has longevity. It’s a few thousand years old, and though it originated in ancient India, it has long since spread throughout the world as a form of exercise and enlightenment. However, my favorite part of the movement is the extension of yoga practice to kids.
The benefits of yoga for kids are numerous. A study called “School-based Yoga Programs in the United States,” by Bethany Butzer of the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital of Harvard Medical School, shows school-based yoga programs have positive effects on stress, anxiety, self-esteem, concentration, attention, and mood.
Experts have unrolled the mat to help us understand more about the positive impact and benefits of yoga for kids. Those benefits include:
1. Muscle Building, Improvement of Balance and Coordination
One obvious and primary benefit of yoga for kids is it improves their flexibility. It also helps them develop strength. Consistent practice leads to good balance and coordination, both of which encourage motor development. Aspiring athletes should not undermine the support that yoga can do for their bodies.
2. Stress Management Through Breathing
Now, this is where yoga wins. Most adults don’t know how to breathe properly, and when kids are taught proper breathing, they will develop breathing techniques early on—which, believe it or not, is a skill. Breathing helps in the management of anxiety and stress, two things young people often experience and parents feel they may have no control over. In yoga practice, they are taught how to use proper breathing while in fun asanas (i.e. forms or postures). They will be able to use these techniques when needed even when they’re away from their mats.
3. Piles of School Work? Yogi Kids Say “Bring Them On”
Kids are smart and naturally curious, but it’s not uncommon to find kids struggling in school. The culprit could be lack of sleep, poor nutrition and too much screen time. Teachers in some schools have reported an improvement in concentration after a short yoga break between classes.
4. “Strength”, “Confidence” and “Achievement” Are Not Adult Words
Parents know the importance of supporting their kids to develop their talents, sports skills, and other interests. It is a job that always doesn’t come easy. Yoga naturally allows them to develop confidence when they feel good about their body and when they know that they become stronger after each practice. Being able to do a pose correctly helps them understand that achieving something takes hard work and patience.
5. Healthy Mind and Healthy Body Taught in a Non-Competitive Way
Not all kids enjoy pushing, shoving or running after a ball. We have to understand that there are young people who like to take their time with things in a quiet, relaxed way. Not all kids enjoy competition, and yoga can give them the space to exercise that. They are also trained to focus on the self and not how much better the kid next to him or her is doing.
6. The Best Introduction to Mindfulness
One of the reasons why we as adults fail miserably at mindfulness is that we were not taught early on in our lives this beautiful concept or practice. We think staring at our coffee cup and thinking while half-running to work is being mindful. The alignment of the body, mind, and soul can’t be learned overnight. Our children are now given the wonderful opportunity to learn and practice mindfulness, to accept it and practice it, so they are happier and know how to control anxiety when it comes rolling down our way.
Watching my daughter roll out her mat every day is an opportunity for me to let go of whatever it is that I’m doing. It is a constant reminder that she’s happier and more fulfilled, not because she is a child, but because she has discovered the secret to the benefits of yoga for kids. When I’m too ashamed to go on adulting some days, I grab my mat and join her as she starts her practice with a long, mindful “Om.”