In Sanskrit, yoga means ‘union,’ and it truly is a union of the mind and body resulting in an overall sense of well-being. Yoga is a gift from India that has been practiced for thousands of years. Yoga for kids is a safe, fun way for them to explore and learn in a healthy atmosphere.
What kids can learn while practicing yoga
Yoga supports the development of the entire child. It teaches children:
• Lessons about movement – While practicing the asanas (yoga postures) kids learn how to move with freedom, flexibility, strength, and bodily awareness.
• Proper breathing – Pranayama (breathing) is stressed in yoga. Kids learn how to breath deep, full breaths that bring a state of peace and energy.
• Control of their life force (prana) – Kids learn how to direct their boundless energy into relaxation, focus, and motivation.
• Inner stillness – Within the inner stillness, kids learn how to hear their inner guide.
• Balance – Yoga is about balance, stretching both sides of the body and balancing busy times with quiet times, play with relaxation.
• How to listen to their bodies – The practice of yoga encourages participants to stretch beyond their perceived limits, but it also encourages them to listen to their bodies for cues to when the body is pushed too far.
• Self-care – Yoga’s focus on body and mind awareness leads to learning about caring for one’s self.
Some other benefits of yoga
Experts theorize that teaching yoga to at-risk kids in school systems can help keep them in school. At-risk kids are those dealing with extreme stress, traumas, abuse (physical, mental and sexual), drug abuse, and alcohol abuse.
Yoga has also been used successfully with kids who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Yoga helps ADHD kids with social skills, mental skills, and physical skills such as strength, coordination, and endurance. Yoga helps hyperactive kids calm themselves down. A review published in 2013 in Frontiers in Psychiatry found yoga to be a potential alternative treatment for ADHD. Both in-class attention and homework improved in the studies profiled.
It is thought that yoga’s ability to help ADHD children is based on yoga’s ability to modulate the hormone and chemical levels in the body such as cortisol (a stress hormone), Gamma amino butyric acid (GABA), serotonin, and acetylcholine.
Children today face a tremendous amount of stressors, distractions, and temptations. They are overstimulated and under severe peer pressure. When yoga is used in schools, teachers end up with a unique tool that gives them:
• An alternative way to handle some of the challenges they face in the classroom
• An activity that integrates well with lesson plans
• A way to help their students develop more focus and higher grades.
Childhood, including the teen years, is a very intensive time of growth encompassing intellectual, physical, social, spiritual, and emotional areas. When stress is triggered in the body, it results in:
• A depleted immune system, followed by illnesses
• Elevated heart rates, which often evolves into anxiety
• Lower self-esteem
• Depression and isolation.
Yoga can offset these stressors that make childhood so difficult.