In 2017, 8 percent of children in the United States ages 4 to 17 — or 4.9 million – practiced yoga. While it’s wonderful that so many kids are being exposed to yoga, there is an opportunity to share the benefits of yoga with the other 92% of children who have yet to try it. Not only can children experience many of the same benefits that adults do from practicing yoga, but they can develop healthy habits early on in life that they can take with them into the future. Rather than using yoga to retrain the body or mind later, when exposed early on children can build healthy habits and techniques that can serve them throughout the rest of their life. Below are just 7 (of the many) benefits of kids yoga:
- Increases Strength and Flexibility
Yoga Asanas (poses) allow children to use their muscles in new ways, increasing overall strength and flexibility. A simple pose like Warrior Pose can become more challenging the longer it is held – which also helps strengthen the mind!
- Balance, Hand Eye Coordination, and General Body Awareness
Many yoga poses work with balance, which can help children build greater body awareness and concentration. There are many poses that cross the midline, which help to integrate the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Yoga exercises both the body and the mind.
- Teaches Self-Regulation and Calming Techniques
Yoga is much more than just physical movements! Yoga teachings help to calm the mind through breathing exercises, visualizations, and mindfulness techniques. Yoga also increases self-awareness – in both body and mind – which can help children better identify and manage their emotions.
- Builds Breath Awareness
Breathing is an essential part of any exercise class, but in yoga there are specific breathing (pranayama) techniques that are integrated into the practice. How often do you really think about breathing? I barely thought about HOW I was breathing as a child, even though I grew up with asthma. It wasn’t until I started practicing yoga that I learned more about how my lungs worked and learned new breathing techniques. I realized I had never been taught how to breath, and often took shallow, chest breaths. Being exposed to yoga as a child can help build awareness about how to breath in the most effective way – a pretty important thing to understand since the average person takes over 20,000 breaths per day!
- Reduces Anxiety and Assists with Stress Management
Many yoga poses activate the parasympathetic nervous system – specifically poses like forward bends. These physical positions help regulate the body, reducing anxiety. According to the CDC, 7.1% of children between the ages of 3-17 have diagnosed anxiety. This does not account for day to day anxiety that the other 93% of children face. In the fast paced, ever changing world that we live in, it is important to have techniques in place to manage stress. Yoga does this through physical movement, breathing exercises, and mindfulness techniques.
- Increases Self Esteem
As children become more confident and aware of their body, they experience greater self-esteem. Unlike many physical activities, yoga is noncompetitive, and fosters self-awareness in the moment. Repeated practice help build self-esteem, motivation, and commitment as students are excited to see their progress and development over time.
- Improves focus and concentration
Many yoga poses require focus and concentration – think balancing poses like tree pose. Repeated yoga practice can also help increase focus and concentration which can lead to greater success in the classroom and beyond. According to Harvard University Neurologist Sat Bir Khalasa, PhD, “Children concentrate on hearing their breath or feeling the stretch in their legs. This awareness, known as Dharana, teaches children to keep their minds in one place instead of letting them wander. This additional self-control can often spill over into the classroom.”
Interested in having your child try out a kids yoga? Join my virtual yoga class in September here.