Like adults, children have to deal with their own stress in life. Moving house, starting a new school, preparing for a new sibling - these are all stressful events that affect children. Children need a way to manage stress and anxiety and one form of practice is teaching children yoga.
What is Yoga
Yoga is one form of practice which includes breath control and specific body postures (asanas), that provides a range of physical, spiritual and mental relaxation. It teaches children to be calm, while gaining awareness of the bodies, self control and discipline.
Benefits Of Yoga for Children
When children practice yoga it increases their confidence, builds concentration and strengthens growing bodies. For children with behavioural issues, yoga can improve their impulses in a positive direction and provides them with an outlet as a way to manage their behaviour.
Physical Benefits Of Yoga
- Helps develop the right balance of muscle tone and strength throughout the body to support the joints.
- Builds core strength for good posture and overall physical fitness.
- Helps to maintain flexibility and mobility in all joints and muscles.
- Encourages the retention of calcium to help build strong bones through weight-bearing postures.
- Supports and strengthens the immune system by reducing stress and stimulating the lymph system (the body’s highway of white blood cells which fight viruses and infections).
- Improves balance, alignment and coordination with practice of postures.
- Helps children develop a positive image of their body and an awareness of how to look after it.
- Helps balance energy levels and calms the nervous system with twists that stimulate the spinal cord and regular practice of relaxation
- Develops sensory awareness – children learn to notice what’s going on in their body and mind while they’re in postures.
- Yoga can accommodate all body shapes and sizes and is not competitive, so it’s a good form of exercise for non-sporty children too.
- Keeps the heart and respiratory system fit and strong, encouraging better circulation by getting the heart pumping and using more of the space in the lungs with deeper breathing.
- Improves the digestive system with yoga asanas that get things moving in the gut and by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system during relaxation, triggering important acids in the stomach to be released for breaking down food.
- A reduced risk of injury in sports and games with better overall fitness and coordination gained through yoga practice and better flexibility in the joints.
Social, Emotional and Cognitive Benefits
- Increases attention span and improves concentration
- More oxygen circulates round the body and brain during yoga practice and breathing exercises, so improving memory retention and learning ability.
- Children get better at dealing with anxiety and stress because they learn to incorporate relaxation and breathing techniques into daily life.
- Improves relationships and social awareness through group and partner work.
- Encourages healthy sleep patterns with the practice of relaxing the body and lengthening the breath.
- Increases confidence with speech in interactive parts of the stories and improves vocal ability as the voice is exercised in tandem with postures.
Teaching Children Yoga
Now that you know the benefits of yoga how do you go about teaching them to children... At the beginning, you can start by adding a few yoga asanas during group time, during transitions or before rest time.
- Start with the simplest yoga asanas first. Using 1 minute or less per asana exercise.
- Encourage children to do the posture the right way.
- Demonstrate the posture yourself.
- Tell a yoga story - combining a story with yoga asanas, getting the whole group involved.
- Play yoga games - such as musical yoga, yoga cards etc.
- Make it fun!
Yoga teaches how the body and mind are inter connected and how we should be aware of our selves. When children are engaged, focused, having fun, while practicing yoga, they are in the present moment. This self-awareness of both body and mind helps children to be cautious in any situation.
It also teaches children that we are all the same inside, despite our outward appearance, culture, and religion. We all have bodies that function, hearts that love, and feelings that feel. Yoga inspires children to be kind, patient, accepting, and emphatic with themselves and their peers.
Benefits Of Kids Yoga - Jamie - 2013
How Yoga Affects Children - Giiam
Yoga For Kids - Lachmi Debroy - 2014