Monday, April 17, 2017

The Benefits of Yoga for Children

Many thanks to our guest contributor, Amy Williams, for another great article!


by Amy Williams 

Being a child today is not the same as growing up when we were kids. Our children are faced with many more stressors at a much earlier age than any previous generation.  They engage in ‘school’ and social groups before they can walk and talk, begin playing sports earlier and with higher performance expectations, talk about college prep and SAT scores prior to hitting puberty, face temptation from every direction with unlimited access available at their fingertips, and every bit of their angst and typical preteen awkwardness is captured on social media for the world to witness. This doesn’t even include the historical difficulties children have always had to face.

In other words, being a kid today is tough. Fortunately, there are some simple remedies to help combat all the negative stressors in their young lives. One of the best is getting them involved in yoga. It is pretty commonly known that yoga builds muscle, improves posture, reduces stress, enhances mood, and increases focus in adults. These benefits are being found to be even more meaningful for children when taught correctly and practiced regularly. Yoga has been shown to help children mentally, physically, behaviorally, and socially.  It teaches skills that support them at home, in the classroom, on the playing field, and in their relationships. In turn, these are skills they will be able to carry into their adult lives.

One of the primary aspects of yoga is teaching mindfulness. This influences children by cultivating a peaceful mindset, enhancing concentration and focus, teaching tools for stress management, reducing anxiety, and encouraging kindness.  For example, yoga teaches children to utilize deep breathing, to clear their minds of negative thoughts, and to have patience with their poses. It teaches them to accept where their body will currently let them go, as well as how to cooperate with other children in the class who may be at different levels. It teaches acceptance and positivity without competitiveness.

Additionally, yoga is an excellent way to increase self-esteem and body awareness as young children learn what their bodies are capable of doing. By maintaining and increasing flexibility and strength as they grow, they become more confident and self-assured while also learning self-discipline.  Posture and muscular development improves, as well as their overall physical and mental health. Adding even more benefit, there are child specific yoga classes that encourage creativity as they are guided to imagine different settings and create their own poses.

The benefits of yoga for children are bountiful and very easy to implement. Whether you find a yoga class for your child or do it with them at home, start with the simplest poses such as cobra, mountain, tree, and downward dog.  Child’s pose is also appropriate, as the name itself proposes. These are easy for children to master and are packed with benefits. As your child becomes more involved and their skills increase, you can add more poses and create your own routines together. Ultimately, they will be able to continue with an independent yoga practice as they journey through the teenage years into adulthood, reaping the benefits along the way.

Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety. 

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