Photo: Alex Bürhmann/Flickr CC

Yoga has benefits for people of all ages and shapes, but introducing yoga to kids at a young age has many advantages for children: physically, mentally, and emotionally. At the most basic level, it can improve and maintain good posture and alignment, keeping the healthy and their bodies functioning well as they grow older, but there’s more to it.

Here are 8 important skills kids can gain from yoga classes:

1. Concentration

Child-focused yoga combines both slow and fast movement that allows kids to learn self-control, enhance their focus, and develop self awareness. They are given the opportunity to practice moving between activity and stillness, which is a great way to learn self control and self-regulation.

2. Self-esteem

Yoga is a non-competitive physical activity that allows children to gain strength, focus, and flexibility, which in turn helps them develop a greater sense of confidence. Successfully learning a posture can provide a sense of accomplishment and the confidence to continue to challenge themselves by doing and learning new things in all parts of their lives.

3. Relaxed bodies and minds

All yoga classes conclude with a savasana, or quite simply “quiet time”, also known as deep relaxation. It may seem surprising, but we’ve found that children of all ages enjoy lying on their backs in quiet, peaceful stillness, sometimes with music or a guided visualization. Even if just for three minutes, children learn to understand the importance of becoming still in this way and can carry it with them into their daily lives.

4. Stress management

Practicing yoga provides kids an immediate outlet to reduce stress in a safe and nurturing environment. It is a physical exercise that produces happy endorphins. While breathing exercises slow down the heartrate, relaxation techniques are powerful sources for calming the mind and the body. These are all tools that a child can carry in to any challenging life situation.

5. Creative outlet

Yoga poses in kids’ classes follow the movement of animals. This alone sparks the imagination, but children are also presented with imaginary adventures and with themes like A Trip to the Beach and Jungle Safari. At Yoga Rocks, we encourage kids to come up with their own poses, too. (They come up with the coolest ones!) This inspires them to be free and creative and to express themselves without judgement. Best of all—it’s fun!

6. Positive social interaction

Yoga teaches children that we are all the same inside, despite our outward appearance, race, and religion. We all have bodies that function, hearts that love, and feelings that feel. Partner yoga poses allow children to fully understand this concept of oneness by working together. Yoga inspires kids to be kind, patient, accepting, and emphatic with themselves and their peers.

7. Improved body awareness

Every pose has the ability to teach a child about their unique body. Yoga teaches children to listen to where their bodies feel the movement and to express how that makes them feel when they are done.

8. Discipline and responsibility

The practice of yoga requires that we develop self-discipline. Ideally, when children learn at a young age the benefits of a committed practice, and how it contributes to their well-being when they do commit, it ripples out into their everyday activities, relationships, and responsibilities. When they learn that yoga takes practice and commitment and they can see the results of that kind of accountability and responsibility, they can then apply it every area of their lives.

Antoniette Finelli is the founder and director of Yoga Rocks Kids (Toronto, Oakville, Hamilton; 905-220-4863; info@yogarocks.ca). Offering yoga to kids and teens at schools, camps, and birthday parties. She is a Montessori teacher, kids’ yoga teacher trainer and is Brain Gym certified. She has worked with kids, teens, and teachers for over two decades.

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