As yoga has grown in popularity over the the last few decades, adults have experienced the many benefits of the practice. They are gaining the flexibility they've always been wanting, developing greater strength in their bodies, and seeing some changes in their moods and emotions. They are also becoming much more self-aware and present with the practice of yoga mindfulness. If adults are reveling in the benefits of a yoga lifestyle, why wouldn't a young person? Well, in fact, yoga is great for all ages, including children. Yoga can be introduced to children at any age: from toddlers to teens.
Yoga classes designed specifically for kids have been showing up in yoga studios and are being introduced in schools, too. What type of yoga is good for children and what are the benefits? Let's take a look.....
When an adult goes to a yoga class, they are practicing poses to help with flexibility, alignment, balance, strength, and other physical benefits. For kids, the asana practice not only delivers physical benefits, but it brings out the creativity of young people, too. For a younger child, the focus isn't necessarily about becoming physically fit, but can teach them a new way to express themselves. As they are developing their personal vocabulary for self-expression, movement in a yoga class can act as another way for a child to communicate their feelings.
It's not about learning yoga poses perfectly. It's just a way for kids to get more in tuned with their own bodies in a healthy and creative way. Many of the yoga poses are named after animals: like dog, cat, peacock, or frog. A teacher could design a fun "Yoga Farm" and have the kids learn about the different animals in their little yoga kingdom. The kids can get pretty creative, too. They can design and demonstrate their own yoga animal poses: Dinosaur Pose, Giraffe Pose, Pony Pose, or anything they'd like. Yoga can be great fun for young kids.
Body Awareness & Appreciation
For a slightly older child, yoga can teach them a little bit more about their developing and growing bodies. Through the practice, they learn how to take care of themselves. School-aged kids and pre-teens begin to develop personalities and a greater sense of self. With this developing awareness, they grow more in tuned with their physical bodies and their feelings. When something hurts inside them, for example, or when they just don't feel quite right, they are able to notice it and tell their parents or teachers. As they get a little older, they will learn acceptance of all body types; theirs and others. In yoga, they will not only learn about diversity, but also learn about respect of self and others.
Yoga teaches kids to be thoughtful, aware of self and others. It teaches them to share and be respectful of one another. It can even help with mood and temperament; like when they are a little hyper active and need some assistance with their behavior. Yoga gives them a tool to use (anytime) to calm their minds and bodies. A great mindfulness practice for a child of any age is simple breathing. There are some very easy breathing exercises that introduce children to the art of mindfulness meditation. Of course, you wouldn't have to call it that. It's just a fun activity that is also helpful and resourceful.
A fun breathing exercise is called Brahmari Pranayama or Buzzing Breath. It's a breathing technique that sounds like the buzzing of a bee. Have your kids sit on the floor. They will cover their eyes with their hands and plug their ears with their thumbs. They will take a deep breath in to fill up their lungs. When they exhale, they will make a humming sound. When that happens, it will sound and feel like buzzing. The benefit of the experience is that it gives the kids something to focus on if they are feeling a little uptight or agitated. The technique allows them to concentrate on the breathing action. And the buzzing creates a vibration through the body that can be described as a way to release all those nervous jitters!
Children will learn wonderful tools while practicing yoga mindfulness. They develop ways to help them concentrate on homework, pay attention better in class, and their comprehension improves. With yoga, kids learn to be very good listeners; they get to practice following directions.
Beginning a yoga practice or simply introducing some yoga techniques, like posture work and breathing exercises in a classroom, can help with a child's overall development. Not only will these activities help in their young lives, but it gives them a foundation of healthy life skills as they grow into teenagers and young adults. School teachers can learn some of these exercises to pass onto their students or even take part in Kids Yoga Teacher Trainings to give them a more formal education about the philosophy of yoga and how it can be taught specifically to children.
Yoga can be, and is, a multi-generational activity - all can benefit from its long list of physical, mental, and behavioral rewards.