Adults that do yoga know that there is a wide range of physical, psychological, and emotional benefits that become available to us through a regular asana practice incorporated with mindfulness practices and breath work, and scientific evidence is now backing this up more and more each and everyday. Adults that regularly practice experience greater productivity at work, greater creativity and problem solving abilities and a greater overall sense of well-being.
So it should come as no big surprise that many of these same benefits are available to children who practice yoga. Stress and anxiety are on the rise with not only the adult population in this country but also (possibly even more so) in children. With more expected at every grade level, an increase in extra curricular activities, less recess or physical education time in school, and screens readily available all around them, it is no wonder that our little ones may be struggling.
However, yoga introduces many therapeutic benefits that compliment and can help to support a child’s natural developmental stages in both their bodies and their minds. Because children grow at such a rapid rate the more tools that we can arm them with to help facilitate healthy growth into adulthood the better.
Doing yoga with children is not only really, really fun, but it is a creative way to disguise the hard work that goes into developing these important skills including:
•Strength and flexibility
•Language development and following instructions
Studies have shown that when yoga is incorporated into an academic environment, the ability to self-regulate, practice making mindful decisions, creatively solve problems and increase both test scores and overall performance goes up. When a strong yoga practice is incorporated in a home environment the after-effects can not only help to strengthen the family dynamics but can help to highlight the importance of routine and structure among creativity. Children thrive when given a foundation of support and healthy, consistent habits.
Some of my favorite ways to invite children to join in is to make it a game. Create partner poses by holding hands in tree pose, or placing your feet together in boat pose, let your little one stack their feet on you for a stacked down dog! A great way to playfully encourage your child to hold a pose for longer is to ask them how long they think they can hold a specific pose for and then count together. Try it one more time striving to “beat” your previous time. One of my favorites games to play at home is Mirror Mirror. Where my little one is following my every move as if they were a mirror! After a few moments I let him lead me through a series of postures as if I am the mirror! It is so silly that we almost always end up in a pile on the floor laughing.
The next time you roll out your mat, invite the little ones in your life to join in on the fun. Make it a game, prepare to laugh, and work on making this a fun activity that the whole family can enjoy!