By Purple Lotus Yoga Children’s Lead Trainer Michele Monaghan
“Yoga has helped me to feel peaceful and be more patient with my little sister,” said one of my seven-year-old students when I asked her why she liked yoga.
Having taught many young people over the years, I’ve heard countless stories similar to this that provide obvious proof of the benefits of yoga for children. And it doesn’t stop there; when children practice yoga, the benefits radiate to parents, families, teachers, and communities.
1. Improved Strength & Flexibility
The deep stretching and breathing during yoga poses improves range of mobility. Despite appearing to be a low-impact activity, yoga requires great muscular strength and concentration.
Yoga helps prevent injuries to growing bones and muscles, the perfect complement to repetitive motion and/or extra-curricular activities.
When children practice yoga, they learn ways to exercise that don’t involve winning or losing.
2. Listening & Self-Discipline
An enormous plus from the position of a parent or teacher is that yoga builds listening skills and improves self-discipline (yay!). It also allows children to be independent and embrace their differences.
Rather than being pressured to look and move identical to the person next to them, children are encouraged to pay attention (or “listen”) to the messages their own body is sending them about how it feels and move accordingly.
One of my favorite things about yoga is that it helps children learn how to control their emotions. The calming techniques learned in yoga help them to manage emotional melt-downs. In fact, studies show that yoga can be therapeutic for children with special needs like ADHD, Autism, Down syndrome and many other conditions.
3. Stress Management
One of the most important benefits is how yoga aids with stress-management. I once had a grown man laugh at me when I told him I am a Children’s Yoga Instructor. “Are kids really that stressed out?” he said
YES! Yes. They. Are.
Children are often over-scheduled and pressured to succeed, causing a healthy amount of stress to rise to toxic levels. When this happens, children are at risk for significant physical, emotional, psychological, social, and behavioral changes.
Unless they learn to achieve balance in their lives, this pressure will take its toll. This is why rest and relaxation is imperative for a balanced, healthy life.
In my Kids Yoga classes, we explore rest and relaxation through guided meditations, colorful stories, art activities, pranayama, and savasana. In doing so, not only are children learning that it’s important to chill every once in awhile, but they are also developing creativity.
4. Develop Coping Tools
Through a fun approach to breathing exercises (pranayama) children learn how to develop awareness and control of their breath. The ability to calm the breath, and in turn calm the whole body, is an important skill that can reduce test anxiety at school.
I’ve had several students report back to me about how they practiced specific breathing exercises they’d learned in yoga before taking standardized tests (a particularly stressful event in public schools).
And the application of controlled breathing can be helpful for children in many other situations, not just at school.
One of my favorite stories to recall is when a former five-year-old student proudly told me how he used “Flower Power Breath” during a doctor visit. He used this calming breath to “make it through the shots without freaking out.” His mom was especially thankful that he had acquired the knowledge to help him through what was previously known to be an anxiety-inducing situation for them both.
The Mindfulness Jar
A super simple and super easy craft we do in Children’s Yoga Training, and that you can do at home with your own child, is making a mindfulness jar. Kids love to shake the glitter and watch it settle to the bottom, and while they do, peace and quiet happens.
And the adults are known to enjoy the swirling glitter too!
That’s a lot of benefits! How can this be?
The short answer is this: because yoga teaches mindfulness. Instilling mindfulness in a young child is a priceless gift that they will be able to use throughout the course of their life. This applies to the physical, as well as mental and spiritual choices they will have to make along their journey in this world.
Actually, I can’t think of one situation in life where mindfulness wouldn’t act as a positive reinforcement. From healthier eating habits to the application of qualities like compassion and empathy, mindfulness has you covered.
Becoming more mindful doesn’t happen by accident; it is a practice, a lifestyle. I believe yoga is an all-encompassing component to a mindful, purposeful life. When we plant the seeds of mindfulness for younger generations the future begins to blossom and bloom into a beautiful, friendly place full of love and light.