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Parents “11 Benefits of Yoga for Kids”

By Nicole Harris

When kids regularly practice yoga, they experience benefits ranging from stress reduction to heightened self-esteem. Here, we break down how yoga can improve physical, mental, and emotional health in children.

A mind-body practice that’s been around for centuries, yoga focuses on breathing techniques, poses, and meditation. Proponents cite benefits ranging from improved body awareness and flexibility to stress reduction and mental clarity. But did you know yoga’s advantages can extend to children as well?

Experts say that yoga prepares children to face the challenges of daily life. It introduces cornerstone values “such as non-harming, truthfulness, moderation, cleanliness, gratitude, and self-discipline,” says Christina Enneking, the founder of Heart Happy Yoga, a studio in Los Gatos, California. Yoga has also been associated with self-discovery, inquisitiveness, improved behavior, and increased academic performance.

Hearing this, it’s no wonder yoga is being incorporated into gym classes and after-school programs across the country! (Though one major advantage is that yoga can be practiced anywhere—no personal trainer or fancy equipment required.)

Wondering if your child should start a yoga practice? Keep reading about the benefits of yoga for kids, and learn why you don’t need to be an adult to get into a tree pose.

Yoga Builds Self-Esteem

Shana Meyerson, the founder of mini yogis, a yoga studio in Southern California that offers classes for kids, believes that yoga builds self-esteem and self-respect. “A child’s yoga practice is a rare opportunity to experience play and focus without worrying about being wrong,” she says.

Yoga helps to provide building blocks for the future, says Enneking. It teaches kids to persevere, be patient, and work toward their goals. Children can rely on their yoga teacher for instruction, but when they master a new pose or technique, they’ll know they put in the hard work. The result is a confidence boost and improved self-esteem.

Yoga Enhances Strength and Flexibility

Yoga promotes physical strength and motor coordination, and it also teaches kids to use their muscles in different ways. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “whether a pose is done standing, sitting, or lying down, each one can challenge various muscle groups. At the same time, a child becomes more aware of his or her body and how it functions.”

One study followed 6- to 8-year-olds who regularly practiced yoga for 12 weeks, twice weekly, 45 minutes at a time. It found that the kids “demonstrated significant and positive changes in overall motor abilities scores (balance, strength, and flexibility).”1

Athletes Can Boost Their Performance Through Yoga

Is your child interested in soccer, football, swimming, or another sport? As it turns out, yoga can help athletic children excel in other physical activities. When practicing yoga, “runners strengthen and stretch the hips, legs, and Achilles tendons,” says the AAP. “Baseball players strengthen the arms and upper body muscles. Gymnasts increase flexibility, balance, and concentration,.”

Yoga Refines Balance and Coordination

Studies have also linked yoga to refined balance in kids.2 Poses that rely on balance promote mental clarity and physical stability, and they also teach perseverance—if a child teeters back and forth while trying the one-legged tree pose, for example, they can focus on staying calm and not giving up. Coordination is a similar trait related to yoga, and it’s tied to a child’s overall dexterity with gross and fine motor skills.

Yoga Develops Focus and Concentration 

Whether they’re maintaining a pose or breathing deeply, yoga encourages children to clear their mind. As a result, children learn to focus on the task at hand. Studies have linked yoga to better memory3 and improved concentration4—traits that are important for academic success.

Students Practicing Yoga Show Better School Performance

Because yoga improves concentration and mental clarity, it’s no surprise the practice has been linked to improved school performance in adolescents.5 Part of the reason might be the stress-reducing capabilities of yoga, as researchers also found that low-stress students performed better academically. Yoga’s tendencies to reduce anxiety and boost problem-solving skills might also come into play.

Another study discovered that yoga might improve “executive functions”—what researchers describe as “the cognitive control functions needed when you have to concentrate and think, when acting on your initial impulse would be ill-advised.” Examples are “creativity, flexibility, self-control, and discipline.”6 These skills are essential to success in school, careers, and other aspects of life.

Yoga Strengthens the Mind-Body Connection 

Yoga encourages kids to achieve a sound mind and sound body. “As parents, we want our children to act and behave with mindfulness and with compassion, to be brave, to know love and happiness, and to find inner peace,” says Alexandra De Collibus, a yoga teacher and founder of Sweet Pea Yoga, a yoga studio for infants, toddler, and kids located throughout Massachusetts.

“Since the modern world moves very, very fast for children, it’s not long before they feel all kinds of pressure (personal, parental, social) to keep up with everyone around them,” adds De Collibus. “Yoga functions as a release valve that alleviates pressure and as a foundation to nurture and develop a resilient and resourceful body, mind, and spirit,” she says.

Yoga Promotes Stress Management

Yoga implements relaxation techniques, stretching, and breathing exercises—all of which are important tools for releasing tension. In one study, a 10-week yoga program was implemented in a second grade and third grade classroom, and results suggested improved behavior and reduced cortisol levels.7 Young people can implement these stress-reducing techniques throughout their lives (in school settings and beyond), and this can lead to better long-term mental and physical health.

Did You Know?

The AAP “recommends yoga as a safe and potentially effective therapy for children coping with emotional, mental, physical, and behavioral health conditions.”

Yoga Might Improve ADHD Symptoms

The AAP “recommends yoga as a safe and potentially effective therapy for children coping with emotional, mental, physical, and behavioral health conditions”—and that includes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Specifically, yoga can help those with ADHD manage symptoms and improve school perfomance.

One study found that “yoga exercise suggests an improvement in the core symptoms of ADHD” such as “inattention, hyperactivity/impulsivity, anxiety and cognitive functions.”8 Another study followed children ages 6 and 11 years with ADHA who began a regular one-year yoga practice, and it reported “remarkable improvements in the students’ school performances that were sustained throughout the year.”9

Children With Autism Can Benefit from Yoga

A study in The American Journal of Occupational Therapy aimed to assess the effects of a 16-week classroom yoga program on children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The result? “Use of daily classroom-wide yoga interventions has a significant impact on key classroom behaviors among children with ASD,” according to researchers.10 Essentially, the children remained more calm after instilling the yoga practice. They also showed improvements with anxiety and social withdrawal, as well as levels of aggression.

Yoga Can Improve Overall Health

The functions of the body are connected, and yoga can have some unexpected health benefits for children. According to the AAP, these include:

  • Stimulating the digestive system
  • Regulating hormones
  • Decreasing the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Regulating blood sugar
  • Helping with constipation
  • Regulating insulin levels

Originally seen in Parents

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