Learn what yoga can do for kids and their growing bodies and minds.
Yoga is a wonderful movement discipline that can give your children regular exercise and keep them toned and supple, with joints that work to their full range of motion. This is especially important today, as children are spending more time than ever in sedentary activities such as watching TV, listening to music, or playing computer games. Research shows that the long-term effects of a sedentary lifestyle are clearly linked to high blood pressure, obesity, ulcers, and poor functioning of the heart and lungs.
Yoga takes a holistic approach to maintaining health and well-being that makes your children feel good and aids their growing bodies. Studies into the benefits of yoga have shown that it can help children in the following ways.
Flexibility and Strength
Children are naturally flexible and agile, and these are important qualities to maintain in their young bodies. Yoga poses, or asanas, strengthen their growing spines, keep their muscles supple, and encourage good joint movement. The action of the poses creates a more elaborate range of muscle motor skills that fine-tune coordination and increase the overall range of motion.
On a deeper level, the intense bending and twisting movements in the poses stimulate and massage the internal organs, balancing the endocrine and other bodily systems.
Yoga poses combine well with sports, as they help flexible children become stronger and build endurance. They also help less supple children who do a lot of sports gain greater flexibility. Many training and stretching exercises are, in fact, borrowed from yoga.
Practicing the poses regularly straightens and strengthens the spine, sending a fresh flow of blood and nutrients to a child’s muscles and disks. When the back is upright and lifted, it enables better energy flow, and the nervous system works more efficiently, improving such involuntary actions as breathing or digestion. Performing the yoga poses also improves and strengthens the muscles that support the spine, reducing the likelihood of backache. Even a slight improvement in posture greatly enhances lung capacity, blood circulation, and energy flow through the body.
If children develop good posture from practicing yoga, it can counteract the time they spend slumped in a chair watching TV or using a computer. Regularly sitting in a slouched posture also prevents children from breathing properly.
Yoga encourages body awareness, as most of the poses are repeated on both sides of the body, which is believed to harmonize the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
Learning how to breathe properly is an essential part of yoga practice. Babies naturally breathe deeply from their diaphragms, but as we get older and have more stress in our lives, we tend to breathe more shallowly from our chests. Teaching children to breathe more deeply in yoga allows the body to draw in more prana: the subtle, life sustaining energy that is taken into the body through air, sunshine, water and food.
Breathing has a direct link with our mind and emotions. When we feel nervous or upset, our breathing becomes very shallow and labored. Practicing breathing deeply helps to calm the mind and frees blocked emotions or creative energy. Yoga breathing techniques can also encourage better sleeping patterns.
Focusing the mind is an essential part of yoga practice. Concentration and visualization exercises help children learn to sit still, get in touch with their inner selves, focus their minds, and avoid outside distractions so that they enjoy the present moment. When they acquire concentration skills, they are more alert and receptive, making it easier for them to pay attention at school and increase their learning abilities.
Yoga poses, bre
- Always be present to practice yoga with your child in a warm, open space, clear of any sharp objects, furniture, or breakable items.
- Make sure that your child breathes steadily during each pose and does not try to hold her breath.
- If any pose is painful or uncomfortable, do not let your child overstretch; let him build up his flexibility over time.
- Remind your child to lengthen and elongate her spine during the poses.
- Always wait at least two hours after a meal before practicing yoga together.
athing exercises, and concentration techniques also help to balance and stimulate both hemispheres of the brain: the left, logical and rational side, and the right, more imaginative, creative, and intuitive side.
When you have a positive self-image you radiate self-confidence and joy. Studies into the use of positive affirmations (saying a positive phrase repeatedly) have shown that your personality reflects how you see yourself. Yoga uses positive language, affirmations, and visualization techniques that increase a child’s self-esteem. In addition, as a child becomes more proficient at the yoga poses, he feels more healthy and toned and his confidence and self-image improve.
Since yoga is noncompetitive, children can enjoy the physical and mental exercises without worrying about succeeding or failing.