As an adult, what brings YOU to the mat? Is it to gain flexibility? For the deep sweat? Maybe you practice because yoga clears your mind or gives you that much need alone time to let go of all that’s happened in your day.
No matter what motivates you to come to the mat, chances are that you recognize the benefits that yoga brings to your life, and you’ve probably found yourself wishing that you discovered these benefits sooner. This is exactly what happened to me. Thirteen years ago, fresh out of college and working as an intern in Washington D.C, I realized I had learned more about how to manage myself mentally, emotionally, and physically through the practice of yoga, than I ever had during 16 years of formal education. This revelation was a light bulb moment for me, and I decided to set aside my developing career in international relations for a much bigger mission: to bring life skills through the practice of yoga to children and teens around the world, at school, and during school hours.
Are you inspired to share the benefits of yoga with kids? Here are eight reasons why kids should do yoga.
1. Kids get stressed too
Sometimes it is hard to believe that children have stress, but the reality is that they do. One major difference between our stress as adults and stress at a younger age is that children have far less life experience to lend to solving problems. That’s where yoga comes in. When kids learn to recognize the unique physical symptoms of their stress, whether it’s clenched fists or butterflies in their stomach, they can tap into a yoga breathing exercise or pose that works best for them. These are skills that empower children and teens to help manage stress on their own, and skills that will serve them for life.
2. Kids need to move
Whether or not a child has an active lifestyle, yoga is a great way to add variety to their movement, with elements of cardio, strength-training and weight-bearing activities for well-rounded fitness. Plus, as a form of physical activity that is both challenging and wholly non-competitive, yoga can appease the preferences of both athletes and non-athletes alike.
3. Kids are growing
Plain and simple. Kids’ bodies are busy growing everyday. Yoga can support their healthy growth and development by strengthening bones, increasing muscular strength, endurance and flexibility, and helping to prevent injuries, even through growth spurts.
4. Kids take A LOT of tests
Kids spend an average of seven hours a day in school, and with each passing year, more and more of that time is spent preparing for, and taking tests. Yoga can support kids through testing by giving them tools to manage their stress, helping them to focus in class, and expanding their learning readiness and their attention span. The result? Happier kids who can perform at their best.
5. Kids need sleep
All this growing and learning means that kids need a lot of rest — rest that many aren’t getting in full. Whether kids stay up late studying, or on their phones and gadgets, yoga can positively influence their ability to fall asleep, and stay asleep, leading to more high-quality Z’s.
6. Kids live online
Kids in the modern era face life experiences drastically different from those of us who grew up before the age of social media. Every time a child or teen uses their phone or logs in to social media, they unlock a whole new world of conflicting information, media messages, peer pressure, and even cyber-bullying. Yoga can help them deal with outside influences by designating a time to consciously unplug and create space to build self-awareness and self-confidence.
7. Kids need to be kind to one another
Because our world is more connected than ever, from an early age, children are likely to encounter individuals from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. And let’s face it, our world could use a whole lot more kindness while doing so. By helping children navigate their own emotional selves, yoga helps them discover the roots of empathy. Compassion and empathy are solid foundations for children to build healthy relationships with outside peers, as well as with their own parents and teachers.
8. Kids are figuring themselves out
Kids are human and, like all humans, they’re just trying to figure themselves out. They’re trying to learn and grow, make meaningful connections in their lives, and they’re doing this in the face of extreme pressure to simply “fit in.” If as adults we do yoga to quiet our thoughts, tune into our body, and find calm and focus through breath, wouldn’t these life skills be excellent tools for kids too?
If you’re ready to start practicing yoga with your kids, it’s important to remember that kids and teens go through different stages of development. Physical and emotional needs vary by their age, and certain precautions on the yoga mat are necessary. They may not respond well to the pace or content matter of an adult class. More importantly, their bodies are not ready to safely take on certain poses. Find a practice that is developmentally appropriate and fun by searching out classes that are designed with children and teens in mind.
Brynne Caleda, CEO of Yoga Ed., and a mother of a young son has been teaching yoga to children and teens in public and private schools across Hawaii over the past decade. You can learn more about her work at www.yogaed.com.