Creates Healthy Body Awareness
Just like adults, yoga promotes healthy body awareness in children. The practice teaches children how to move their changing and growing bodies in a healthy, graceful way, and how to prevent injury in their daily active lives. Through the postures themselves they learn physical coordination and awareness that leads to increased strength, advanced neuromuscular development, improved posture, healthier digestion, and a strengthened immune system. Physical awareness also helps children make more mindful dietary decisions for a well-nourished body that is strong, flexible, and more equipped for a happy and healthy life.
Provides Early Stress Management Skills
This is the main reason that many adults wish they had started practicing yoga as a children. Stress has been linked to the majority of physical and mental issues, and one of the greatest keys to a happy life is learning how to manage it. Intentional breathing is one of the most effective self-calming mechanisms. Many psychotherapists will prescribe breathing exercises for patients that suffer from anxiety before anything else. Teaching children ujjayi breath, (bear breath) nadi suddhi breath (side to side breath), and other calming breath techniques could be useful tools for life.
Aside from breathing, yoga teaches us balance for our high-energy, busy society. It allows people of all ages to learn that relaxing is not only ok, but it is a welcomed and necessary priority. This learned relaxation skill also promotes better sleeping habits, which is the ultimate rest. Yoga introduces the concept of mindfulness to children, or the ability to bring one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment. Studies have shown that dwelling on past events, or worry for the future are directly linked to depression and anxiety.
Promotes Confidence and Individualism
Individuality is vital to a happy and authentic life. Embracing oneself for exactly who and what he or she is in a healthy and respectful way can be absolutely liberating. Yoga is non-competitive and it encourages each person to express themselves through movement in their own ways. A teacher may give options, or modifications, or the freedom to skip a pose or stay in a pose longer than the rest of the class if it feels right in the body. This type of openness to self, when learned as a child, can allow for healthy creativity, confidence, and innovation. Each person is different and possesses completely unique innate capabilities. A sibling, or a parent of multiple children knows this to be true, so why not nurture those differences? A self-image can be difficult to define in this society of mainstream schooling, team sports, and competition.
Most importantly, yoga teaches children that they are the bosses of their own bodies. This is a concept that not only fosters freedom in self-expression, but could also end up keeping them safe from harm.
Improves Social Skills
Just as it is important to celebrate individuality, it is also important for children to learn to make connections with other people. The very meaning of “Namaste”, often translated to “The light in me sees the light in you”, can be groundbreaking for relationships. Yoga is a non competitive way to allow children to feel like a part of a group, thus advocating joyful cooperation. Yoga has especially served shy or timid children in this way, because children can choose when to participate alone or as a part of a group. Partner poses are often welcomed by children and can add a lot of fun into a yoga class. Yoga is not aggressive, it teaches kind interactions, and it is a promoter of peace. The concept of compassion vs. opposition for oneself and others is a powerful life skill to learn as a child. These concepts show us how to respect others, even if they are different from us. The ability to connect to other people can develop into life skills, connection with nature, and possibly connection to spirituality later in life.
Teaches Non Attachment
Children in the current generation will face a great challenge with this concept due to technology. It is difficult to interact with your average teenager anymore without them looking at their phone or avoiding eye contact. The convenience of handheld devices has created a highly addictive habit in our young generation. Yoga gives children a much needed time to disconnect. It shows them how good it can actually feel to not “need” anything except for their own bodies and minds, even if it is just for a short while. This skill can allow children to cope with anxiety, stress, and to make deeper connections with other people. It also allows children to let go of the “responsibility” of being connected to the internet at all times!
Improves Brain Function and Classroom Performance
Yoga causes little brains to grow for the simple fact that in yoga, the learning never stops. Yoga is accessible and challenging to any child at any age. Yoga teaches children discipline and responsibility in a non-intimidating way, thus allowing the brain to focus. It caters to the playful imagination of children through poses that mimic animals and nature, and studies show that the use of creative imagination sharpens memory and and thinking.
Naturally hyperactive children learn that it is ok to be still, and shy children learn how to be comfortable in groups away from home. Children who practice yoga learn the importance of respect for other people, including their teachers, while celebrating their own individual capabilities.
When teaching yoga to children, remember to be patient. It is important to drop your own expectations and to allow for the natural energy and playful imagination of children to shine. Speak in the language of a child and don’t hesitate to use storytelling, art, games, fun music, and even animal noises in a yoga class. Allow some talking and wiggle room, feel free to rename the poses, and remember that you want it to be enjoyable for each child. If you don’t feel confident in teaching, look up family yoga or children’s yoga classes near you, and invest in a yoga mat for your child so that they are inspired to take ownership of their practice. Don’t worry if all of the concepts of yoga don’t land immediately with your child. Children are just little PEOPLE, and they will take what they need and what they understand at the right time. Be grateful for the fact that your child has access to these concepts early in life. You know how important yoga is to you, and you want your child to experience it also.
Some great poses for Children:
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Snake Pose (cobra)
Rainbow Pose (bow pose)
Partner Poses for Children:
Double Down Dog
Lizard on a rock
Some Great breathing exercises for kids:
Side to Side Breath
Dump Truck Breath