I’m going to walk you through the benefits of yoga for children. Before I came across this topic, I didn’t even know that children were generally encouraged to practice yoga!
Since then, I’ve done my research and I’m eager to share with you what I’ve found.
The core principles of yoga – despite what style – focuses on acceptance. This may be self-acceptance, acceptance of your feelings and thoughts, or acceptance of any situation happening at the moment.
While practicing yoga, if you begin to struggle with a pose, you will be encouraged to accept how it feels, rather than labelling or judging it.
This acceptance in yoga, and life generally, can be hugely beneficial for children to develop from a young age.
Children absorb the emotions and attitudes of those around them more than we realise. They tend to absorb these more than what we tell them, and modelling tends to be more powerful than simply telling a child what to do, or how to think.
By practicing yoga with children and encouraging them to accept situations rather than judge or fight against them, we help them find calm and patience despite what life throws at them.
We teach them to accept the inevitable up-and-downs in life, and model to them that it’s okay when things don’t always go to plan.
This ultimately helps children develop healthy mindset, outlooks and expectations, leading to a stress-free and happy life.
Self-care is often overlooked in our busy modern day lives. However, by taking just a few hours each week to practice self-care, we can dramatically improve our wellbeing and overall health.
This, of course, is why it is so important to teach children the importance of self-care as well.
Practicing yoga is a perfect way to introduce the practice of self-care for children.
Self-care has been described as a ‘preventative medicine’. We all want our children to be happy and healthy, right? So, why not encourage them to start practicing yoga or other physical activity?
Some children may benefit more from different physical activity. A child who struggles to focuses, or has high anxiety, may really benefit from the practice of yoga.
This point goes hand-in-hand with the first – by modelling and encouraging the practice of self-care to children at a young age, they are more likely to take this with them in later life.
Self-care and self-acceptance encourage a healthy and positive mindset, and a positive relationship with the self.
Encourages a healthy body
Research has shown that children who are encouraged to do any physical activity early in life are more likely to be active adults.
More children than ever are classed as overweight today. It’s therefore paramount that we help children instil healthy physical activity early on, to give them the best chance of carrying this on to adulthood.
Research shows that physically active children grow up to be healthier adults
A research team at the University of California found that physically active children may be more likely to seek out an active lifestyle as adults. This has huge implications for general wellbeing; both physically and mentally.
They found that early-life access to exercise significantly increased adult voluntary exercise.
Of course children practice P. E in schools every week, but what if children were able to have autonomy over the types of exercise they practice?
I’m sure some children and their temperament would really benefit from a yoga practice vs a compulsory football practice!
If we can tailor activities and physical exercise to children on an individual basis, and find things they all enjoy, they may be more likely to continue their pursuit into adulthood – leading to healthier, more varied life!
Introduces children to mindfulness
Modern life seems to run on over-stimulation, and over-distraction. Both of these can be detrimental to a child’s mental and physical health as they grow older.
More children than ever are suffering with mental health difficulties, such as anxiety and depression. And more children than ever are using social media and the internet.
Social media will not be going away, but learning to incorporate healthy habits into a weekly schedule from a young age can give children some much-needed me-time, and get them away from their screens if only for an hour.
Mindfulness itself has been found to have a number of benefits for children, for example:
- Reduced anxiety and stress
- Improves social skills and communication
The benefits of mindfulness for children would surely reflect in a child’s academic performance in school, and therefore may help predict, and enhance chances of success later in life.
Helps children focus
This point really relates to introducing children to the principles of mindfulness.
Most children nowadays have iPads from a young age. I think in years to come we may see some research published about the effects these have had on the still-developing minds of children.
In the meantime, I think it’s great to do all you can to help children focus.
When children are on a computer, phone or iPad, thy can easily switch to a different programme or game when they begin to get bored. This is great and convenient, but I wonder what effect it has on their self-discipline.
By practicing yoga, children begin to gain some self-discipline back into their daily lives.
When practicing yoga, children can’t just get up and go (well, I suppose they could – they won’t be forced!), they will be encouraged to accept and handle whatever is being presented to them.
I believe this helps to build a focused, resilient mindset, and sets them up for being able to handle and navigate problems in later childhood and adulthood.
How can this be implemented more?
The benefits of children practicing yoga are undeniable. I think the question going forward is how can we make yoga practice a more accessible and less stigmatised exercise for young children?
If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments!