Discover Why Kids Need Yoga as Much as We Do
Discover Why Kids Need Yoga as Much as We Do
Yoga presented in a child’s language can help counter the stress experienced by little ones living in a hurry-up world. Learn the benefits of teaching yoga for kids.
Our children live in a hurry-up world of busy parents, school pressures, incessant lessons, video games, malls, and competitive sports. We usually don’t think of these influences as stressful for our kids, but often they are. The bustling pace of our children’s lives can have a profound effect on their innate joy—and usually not for the better.
I have found that yoga can help counter these pressures. When children learn techniques for self-health, relaxation, and inner fulfillment, they can navigate life’s challenges with a little more ease. Yoga at an early age encourages self-esteem and body awareness with a physical activity that’s noncompetitive. Fostering cooperation and compassion—instead of opposition—is a great gift to give our children.
Children derive enormous benefits from yoga. Physically, it enhances their flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness. In addition, their concentration and sense of calmness and relaxation improves. Doing yoga, children exercise, play, connect more deeply with the inner self, and develop an intimate relationship with the natural world that surrounds them. Yoga brings that marvelous inner light that all children have to the surface.
When yogis developed the asanas many thousands of years ago, they still lived close to the natural world and used animals and plants for inspiration—the sting of a scorpion, the grace of a swan, the grounded stature of a tree. When children imitate the movements and sounds of nature, they have a chance to get inside another being and imagine taking on its qualities. When they assume the pose of the lion (Simhasana) for example, they experience not only the power and behavior of the lion, but also their own sense of power: when to be aggressive, when to retreat. The physical movements introduce kids to yoga’s true meaning: union, expression, and honor for oneself and one’s part in the delicate web of life. 1
Five key areas where kids benefit from the practice of yoga
It Enhances Physical Flexibility. Yoga promotes physical strength because kids learn to use all of their muscles in new ways. Whether a pose is done standing, sitting, or lying down, each one can challenge various muscle groups while helping a child become aware of his body and how it efficiently functions.
It Refines Balance and Coordination. Balance is a key element of yoga. Balancing poses were created to promote mental and physical poise, as mental clarity and stability emerge from the effort of trying the poses. Even if a child has difficulty standing on one foot, she learns mental and physical balance if she can stay calm when she falls and when she gets up to try again. As children learn to improve their physical balance, they will be filled with a sense of accomplishment. Coordination is also closely tied to balance and promotes overall dexterity. Some yoga teachers and occupational therapists use finger yoga and other specialized techniques to help children with gross and fine motor coordination.
It Develops Focus and Concentration. The act of practicing poses encourages children to clear their mind and focus on the effort. As a result of this single focus to achieve a particular pose or stay balanced, yoga helps children to focus and concentrate in school and get better grades, several studies note.
It Boosts Self-Esteem and Confidence. Yoga helps to instill confidence and to bring learning to children on an experiential level, Enneking says. “It helps to provide building blocks for the future. It is our responsibility to develop our children’s sense of wonder and to give them a strong sense of self so they know where they belong in this world and can contribute to making their community a better place.” Yoga teaches them to persevere, be patient, and work toward their goals. A yoga teacher can only offer guidance; it is the child who has to work to succeed. Therefore, when a child masters a pose, it gives him confidence and self-esteem. Enneking often describes kids’ yoga as “prehabilitation,” a proactive action to ward off instability or sickness; yoga also provides tools for practicing compassion, mindfulness, generosity, focus, strength, and flexibility.
It Strengthens the Mind-Body Connection. Yoga helps kids achieve a sound mind in a sound body by exercising the physical body and calming the mental spirit. “As parents we want our children to act and behave with mindfulness and with compassion, to be brave, to know love and happiness, and to find inner peace,” De Collibus says. “Since the modern world moves very, very fast for children, it’s not long before they feel all kinds of pressure (personal, parental, social) to keep up with everyone around them. Yoga functions as a release valve that alleviates pressure and as a foundation to nurture and develop a resilient and resourceful body, mind, and spirit,” she says. 2