Introducing Yoga to Children

Meditation and mindfulness promote emotional health and well-being.

Dec 28, 2019

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Introducing yoga to children at a young age can help little ones develop healthy physical and mental habits to carry with them for the rest of their lives. 

The word yoga might call to mind yogis holding gravity-defying handstands… or perhaps you imagine a fitness class full of people in downward facing dog. But the beauty of this ancient practice is that anyone can do it, regardless of fitness level, or age even.

Benefits of Yoga for Children

Yoga 4 Classrooms points out the benefits of introducing yoga to children combined with meditation and mindfulness practice. Introducing yoga to children early on promotes academic, emotional, and physical wellbeing that will pay off as they get older. 

Improves Emotional Regulation
Learning to regulate our emotions represents a key component in socializing. It refers to how we deal with strong feelings like anger, excitement, anxiety, and so on. Adolescents have an especially difficult time learning this skill, but as it turns out, yoga can help. 

A controlled study observed high school students who participated in 40 minutes of yoga three times per week for a 16 week period. The results found that those students who participated in yoga benefited from better emotional regulation.

Boosts Academic Performance
Introducing yoga to children can even help when it comes to academic performance. Researchers found that yoga can help with attention and memory as well as reduce stress, factors that all help contribute to high academic performance.

Promotes Physical Wellbeing
Nearly one in five school age children in the United States are obese. Lack of physical activity plays a big role in those numbers. Teaching yoga to youngsters in a way that they can understand helps to teach body awareness and increase physical activity among children. 

A study in Brazil organized a group of children from first grade public elementary to participate in 45 minute yoga classes twice per week. The results found that kids not only enjoyed the activity, but that they also improved aspects of physical wellbeing such as balance, strength, and flexibility. As an added bonus, the kids reported better quality of sleep and higher energy levels.

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Yoga in the Classroom

The good news is that yoga is slowly gaining momentum among children. A national survey discovered that 3 percent of children in the United States (1.7 million) have done yoga as of 2012. That’s 429,000 more kids on the yoga mat since 2007!

Schools around the world have even started introducing yoga into their curriculum, seeing tremendous positive results that address many of the common challenges that schools and families face when raising children.

At Edmunds Elementary, a diverse inner-city school in Des Moines Iowa, each classroom starts the day with a “Be Well” session that blends yoga movements and breathing exercises with discussions about gratitude, interacting peacefully with others, and getting enough sleep. After lunchtime, the classrooms dim the lights and play calming music for a 10 minute meditation and mindfulness practice. 

One teacher at Edmunds told Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, “Practicing yoga and taking these mindful pauses throughout the day is like hitting the reset button, for all of us. ”

Across the pond at Reedham Primary in Norfolk, United Kingdom, children help deal with the emotional and social challenges of growing up through yoga and mindfulness classes. The project has had a “profound impact”, in particular among students with special needs such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

"We have seen how the practice of yoga has a profound impact on certain children. They appear to be calmer and more at peace with themselves and their surroundings. By being more in control of their feelings, their behavior and attitudes towards learning and life in general have improved," head teacher Chris Edwards told BBC News

While school-based yoga remains in its infancy, the future looks promising. As more parents and school teachers introduce yoga to children, the little ones will build body awareness, improve emotional stability, and learn relaxation techniques that will benefit them as they grow.

ALLISON MICHELLE DIENSTMAN, CONTRIBUTOR
Working from her laptop as a freelance writer, Allison lives as a digital nomad, exploring the world while sharing positivity and laughter. She is a lover of language, travel, music, and creativity with a degree in Chinese language and literature.