There are A LOT of activities for children to participate in these days, aren’t there? Every sport ever invented (including some straight from fictional stories, like Quidditch) has a team kids can try out for. Your three year old likes wearing a tutu? There’s about a half-dozen dance classes she can participate in every week. There are library reading clubs, after-school extracurriculars, tutoring programs, Scouts, debate teams, music lessons, art classes… In fact, kids are so regimented and scheduled these days, it’s hard for them to come up for a breath of air. And what about their unpaid Uber drivers (that’d be us, the parents and caregivers)? We need a break, too!
So with all of this being the case, how in the world would taking your kids to yoga classes be of benefit? It’s just another thing to fit into the schedule, right?
Yoga, if taught in a kid-friendly, playful, imaginative way, can actually be an antidote to the stress that a busy schedule often creates. Numerous scientific studies have discovered that a child practicing yoga:
- Develops mind-body awareness: An effective yoga class trains children to notice the relationship between their minds and their bodies. They learn to notice how their body feels in different circumstances. For example, if a child practices Bumblebee Breath and notices how calm and still they feel afterward, they’ll know to try it when they become upset or anxious at home instead of yelling or slamming doors.
- Improves self-regulation: Yoga postures, the breathing practices, and meditation techniques all stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (our relaxation response). That’s why children (and their parents) love how they feel and behave after a yoga class. This exercising of the parasympathetic nervous system is also why children who practice yoga may choose to take a long, deep breath or do a big chest-opening stretch just before an exam. They know how to regulate the stress reactions that may be building up in their bodies and minds.
- Improves behavior, mental state, and academic performance: A yoga practice alone isn’t going to get a child into an Ivy League school. But, the skills children learn in their yoga class may have a direct impact on how they perform at school. According to several studies, “Early evidence is also beginning to show that yoga and meditation might help students be more self-aware (Monshat et al., 2013), manage their emotions (Noggle, Steiner, Minami, & Khalsa, 2012), enhance their relationships (Conboy et al., 2013), and make better decisions (Barnes, Bauza, & Treiber, 2003),” all skills that are critical to academic and social success.
- Builds physical fitness: Most children’s yoga classes are quite vigorous, easily building strength and flexibility (all while kids think they are just playing). Yoga may also improve respiratory function, reduce obesity risk factors, and increase the enjoyment of physical movement and exercise, too.
So it turns out that adding a short yoga class to your schedule, or even spreading yoga-based activities throughout your day, may have a lifelong impact on your child’s mental and physical health. The practices learned in yoga are also immediately useful in other activities kids might be active in. The physical nature of a yoga practice can be of benefit to your young athlete. Learning to focus and concentrate will come in handy as your musician is practicing and memorizing scales. Artists can use the calm they cultivate in meditation to be more imaginative. And siblings may bicker just a little bit less after a yoga class.
And, by the way, all of this is true for adults, too. So carve out a few minutes to make yoga a part of your family’s life. We can all use a brain break now and then.
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