Imagine a world where kids had the tools they needed to feel strong and confident in their bodies, calm in their minds and be able to easily navigate real life situations on their own. A regular yoga and mindfulness practice can have these effects on children today.
Studies show that yoga enhances the mind-body connection creating more balance in the body, sparking confidence and creativity and giving an overall sense of calm. The other benefits of yoga and mindfulness are improvement in children’s executive functioning, overall well-being and mood and reduction in symptoms of depression.
A recent study by Reuters Health News stated that yoga and meditation were effective in helping kids and teens with self-regulation. Self-regulation is the ability for children to manage their behavior and emotions in a given situation. Researchers found consistent improvements in self-regulation and overall in 16 of 21 interventions that were incorporated into school curriculums, making this the most successful approach. The impact of physical activity, yoga being one of them, was associated with kids adjusting their behavior and emotional responses to fit different situations. The most effective approach involved training teachers to incorporate mindfulness and yoga activities into their classroom routine.
Let’s face it, children today have a lot on their plates with the rising pressure to achieve in school, social pressure to fit in and overstimulation from the exposure to technology. In each of these areas, kids are more vulnerable to stress, which can sometimes impact their academic performance and behavior. Breathing exercises and yoga postures teach kids about the mind-body connection and the ways in which they can release stress and bring their bodies back into equilibrium on their own. With just a few simple breathing exercises and yoga movements kids can start to focus on their breath and release any tension they feel in their mind or body.
Yoga and mindfulness have been proven to increase both physical and mental health in school-age children (ages six to 12). Practicing yoga poses not only improves balance, strength, flexibility and endurance but it can also have positive psychological benefits for children as well. A growing body of research has already shown that yoga can improve focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance, classroom behavior and can even reduce anxiety and stress in children. There are many schools that recognize the benefits of yoga and teachers have started to implement yoga into the classroom. If children are not learning to do yoga in school, parents can incorporate some mindfulness and yoga poses with their children at home.
Here are some simple breathing exercises and yoga poses to try at home or in the school classroom:
- Belly Breath
Place one hand on the belly and inhale through the nose, feel the belly expand and exhale out the mouth. Continue to follow the breath, and eventually breathe in through the nose and exhale out the nose. Find a nice evenness in the inhales and exhales. Results: Feel more calm and focused with this breath.
- I-AM Meditation
Come to a comfortable crossed legged seat. Take a few clearing breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Place the back of your hands on the tops of your knees. On both hands, touch your thumb to your pointer finger, thumb to middle finger, thumb to ring finger, thumb to pinky finger. Continue to do this while saying a positive affirmation out loud, such as, “I am kind” or “I am happy” or “I am strong.” You can continue doing this meditation for 1-2 minutes changing the volume of your voice from loud to more of a quiet whisper. Results: Children will feel more centered, focused and happier using a positive affirmation.
- Child’s Pose
- Downward Dog
- Warrior I
- Warrior II
- Warrior III
- Squat Pose
- Boat Pose
- Bridge Pose
- Tree Pose
How Can You Start a Yoga Practice With Your Children?
- Start small. Practice yoga for five minutes a day consistently during the week.
- Incorporate yoga into your life. Find ways to incorporate yoga at any time and anywhere.
- Create a ritual. Just like brushing your teeth, build your family yoga practice into a daily or weekly ritual.
- Be creative. Encourage your children to use their creativity and invent their own poses.
- Take it with you. Wherever you go, take your yoga practice with you – to the park, on a vacation, a visit with family or to the beach.
- Choose a topic. Find ways to include a theme or topic in your yoga sessions that will help children express themselves freely, integrate their learning, engage in meaningful experiences and have fun.
By Lindsay Oppler
Lindsay Oppler began her yoga journey 13 years ago when she found herself drawn to the Hatha and Vinyasa styles of yoga. She is currently an E-RYT through the National Yoga Alliance and the owner of Omazing Yoga in New Jersey. You can find her leading children and teens in her Creative Arts Yoga classes in studios and schools in Bergen County or teaching adults in her creative Vinyasa Flows. By combining her love of working with children and her love for the performing arts, Lindsay helps individuals express their unique selves through the exploration of yoga, mindfulness and creative play. Lindsay holds a 200-Hour Yoga Certification, Restorative Yoga Certification and Kids Yoga Certifications through Karma Kids Yoga and Radiant Child. Her intuitive approach to yoga allows her to tune into each of her students and help them experience the whole body benefits of yoga and to find true inner peace. Find out more about her classes at www.OmazingYoga.com.
Photos by Nicole Crystal.