Benefits of Yoga for Kids / by Julie Anne Caramanico

Why should kids do yoga?  

I've been getting this question a lot lately.  I've seen firsthand how kids can benefit from yoga after just one session.  Many kids are taught to focus, pay attention, and take a deep breath.  Do kids know what that means?  Sure - look at what you're telling me to look at and calm down.  But do they actually know how to do it?  Knowing they are being told to calm down and actually being able to are two very different things.  

What does the research say?

Research has begun to support the claims that yoga is beneficial for kids.  Read an excerpt below:  

In 2009, the Journal of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine published a pilot study of fourth-and fifth-grade students in New York who attended an after-school yoga class once a week for 12 weeks. After just 12 yoga sessions, the children who participated showed increased well-being and enhanced self-worth, and fewer negative behaviors were reported in response to stress (Berger, Silver, and Stein 2009). Another study of young adults found a reduction in symptoms among people with mild depression after just five weeks of yoga practice (Woolery et al. 2004).

Do they know HOW to do it?  

Yoga teaches kids super valuable skills that can benefit their growing bodies, developing minds and their emotional health.  Yoga can help kids learn real strategies to deal effectively with the demands of life, which have become increasingly stressful for young people.  There is constant pressure on kids to perform in academics, sports, and extracurricular activities - and to excel in all areas.  Yoga is a place where kids can come to relax and unplug.  They'll learn games that help them focus, ways to breathe to help them relax, and be encouraged and supported as they learn to take these methods into their daily lives.  How great is that?  

Useful Daily Benefits

Just like many adults notice when they practice yoga, they will find that knowing how to breathe, be still and get present will help them function better in many areas of their life.  When a teacher says "take a deep breath" - they'll know how.  When a coach tells them to focus, it's something they've practiced.  

Student Success

I have taught yoga to kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and there was one child in particular who really struggled to regulate himself.  He would get really hyperactive when he got upset, then crash - which for him meant shutting down communication and becoming destructive.  Through a lot of practice and after learning yoga strategies, I watched as one day he noticed he was becoming upset.  He excused himself from the group and took out my deck of yoga cards, read his favorite calming activity, and calmed himself down.  When he was ready, he returned to the group.  I was so proud of him!  This type of emotional maturity is a true gift to any child.  Yoga can provide this - and so much more.    

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