“For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that the danger has passed and to live in the reality of the present.” -Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. from The Body Keeps the Score
The basic elements of a yoga practice (movement, breath work, and meditation) help equip children with the skills to handle stress and recognize and respond to a trauma response in a healthy way. Yoga can help children reclaim their power and control their bodies. In one Georgetown study, girls in a juvenile detention center were taught yogic practices. This resulted in reports of greater levels of self-esteem, self-respect, and well-being. Participants showed less anger, depression, flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety. The girls who practiced yoga improved their ability to identify negative behavior patterns and used breathing techniques to avoid aggressive, negative responses and resolve conflicts.
A yoga practice can be effective with:
- Anxiety and depression
- Impulse control
- Attention disorders
- Emotional regulation
- Interpersonal connection
- Re-experiencing trauma
A traditional yoga practice is based on the Eight Limbs of Yoga:
- Guidelines for living: Yamas are non-violence, non-stealing, non-greed, moderation, and non-lying
- Healthy Habits: Niyamas are cleanliness, contentment, self-discipline, accountability, self-study, and serving the greater good
- Physical exercise: The yoga postures (Asanas) develop strength, flexibility, resilience, and coordination
- Breathing exercises: Pranayama can calm and/or energize the body
- Calming the senses: Pratyahara helps with anger management and impulse control
- Concentration: Increasing focus is called Dharana and helps with academics
- Meditation: Dhyana builds awareness of thought patterns and self-reflection
- Connection: Samadhi guides practitioners to serve the greater community and step out of self-indulging tendencies
So how does a yoga practice actually make a difference in a child’s “real world” experience? When kids need books, nutritious meals, a safe place to sleep, why should we invest time or money in providing yoga? Because yoga teaches kids the tools to manage themselves and their emotions. It regulates the nervous system and enables children to learn how to respond instead of react. Deep breaths are easy to do while in yoga class. So we practice our breathing until it becomes a natural reaction. The same is true with physical postures. Holding a chair pose for a long time brings up tiny stress responses, like a furrowed brow, tight fists, negative self-talk, and a clenched jaw. When we learn to recognize these minor responses and practice releasing the stress, we are more equipped to handle challenging situations as they arise.
For a great discussion about yoga and self-regulation, listen to our podcast, Mindful Conversations with KAY!
Like what you read here? There’s so much MORE to explore and learn with Kidding Around Yoga. Check out our website for our live and online teacher trainings, Yoga Alliance-approved 95-hour RCYT trainings, specialty online courses, original music, merchandise, podcast, and beyond! KAY even offers a 6-hour workshop designed to teach school educators and homeschool families how to bring yoga and meditation right into their classrooms (EduKAY) and an online course specifically for families to incorporate these practices in their family’s routine (Mindful Parenting)