By: JoAnn Hill
Nowadays, it's hard being a kid; having to juggle the many demands of academics, friendships and after-school activities. It can be difficult to navigate for many children.
As an elementary school educator for fourteen years, I can attest to the negative impact that stress can have on children. Just like adults, kids need an outlet that helps reduce stress, which is where yoga comes in. In my yoga class for kids, I’ve seen that these youngsters see it as not only a form of physical exercise, but also to find balance both mentally and spiritually. As a years-long yoga practitioner, I know just how important yoga can be in managing daily tension and stress.
Below are five ways that kids can benefit from the practice of yoga, each of them greatly improving their overall well-being.
1) Enhances Physical Health
Yoga does a body good. Some of the many health benefits of practicing yoga include improved balance, flexibility, coordination, strength, and endurance. All of these physical benefits lend themselves to improved performance in many other sports and can reduce the risk of injury during other physical activity. Practicing yoga allows kids to use their muscles in new and challenging ways. Learning different yoga poses allows children to become better acquainted with and more aware of their bodies, helping them realize just how powerful and capable their bodies are!
2) Improves Focus
Practicing yoga encourages children to become more focused and present … and what parent doesn’t want their kid to be more focused! Whether it’s holding a challenging pose or following step-by-step movements of a yoga sequence, children develop better concentration skills and expand their ability to focus on the task at hand. Maintaining focus during the flow of a yoga routine can transfer to improved attentiveness during school, homework, and other extracurricular activities.
According to Harvard Health Publications, “Emerging research studies also suggest that yoga can help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by improving the core symptoms of ADHD, including inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It can also boost school performance in children with ADHD.” When I asked one of my third-grade yoga students what he appreciated most about yoga, he replied, “Yoga helps me clear my mind and helps me focus. It helps me forget about my stresses.”
3) Promotes Mindfulness
For kids and adults alike, yoga and other mindfulness practices have been found to decrease stress and anxiety while increasing emotional wellness. One of my fourth-grade yoga students told me she “loves yoga because the poses keep your body and mind balanced.” The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health has found that the regular use of “mindfulness tactics easily and readily in and beyond the classroom are important to help [kids] manage future stresses. Mindfulness emphasizes consciously focusing the mind in the present moment, purposefully, without judgment or attachment. Meditation extends this to setting aside time and places to practice mindfulness, and additionally, yoga includes physical postures and breathing techniques that enhance mindfulness and meditation.”
4) Boosts Confidence
One of yoga’s greatest attributes is its focus on self-discovery and evolution, rather than competition and comparison to others. When children practice yoga, they are encouraged to follow their own paths and move at their own pace. Through the art of yoga, children learn perseverance, patience, the importance of setting goals and working diligently to reach those goals. Whether it’s learning a new a pose or holding a pose longer and stronger, the feelings of growth and accomplishment go a long way for all of us, particularly children.
Because a child can be successful at his/her own pace, the comparison to others is lessened. Yoga helps instill confidence and boost a child’s self-esteem, which can carry over too many other facets of a child’s life, as well as future endeavors. A stronger self-image can lead to a child taking more risks and embracing more challenges. One of my third-grade yogis recently remarked, “yoga lets me challenge myself and try something new that I didn’t know I could do before.”
5) Teaches Self-Control and Discipline
Practicing yoga can teach children discipline, resulting in them making better choices, as well as taking more accountability for their actions. Developing self-discipline teaches children to exercise self-control and be more thoughtful and purposeful in their daily lives. Learning to practice self-control can provide children with the structure and tools that they need to be more responsible, productive, and independent. When a child is better equipped in self-regulating, impulsivity and erratic behaviors drastically decrease.
Yoga offers numerous benefits that can have long-lasting effects. When we expose a child to the many gifts of yoga, we are providing them with tools of empowerment and strength that can last a lifetime. Could yoga be right for your child? We’d love to hear from you.