Do you struggle to get your kids to sit still? Do they have difficulty maintaining concentration? Do they complain when you suggest stretching?
Well, perhaps yoga could be a way to combat these frustrations…
Yoga’s breadth and depth of physical and mental benefits have been experienced by millions of adults around the globe – from improved flexibility to increased concentration levels.
BUT – is yoga as effective for our kids? Should children practice yoga? Do the same benefits apply?
Today, you will learn about the benefits of yoga for kids, including:
- Improved flexibility
- A good recovery modality
- Improved muscular endurance and strength
- Better coordination and balance
- Improved confidence
- Improved emotional regulation
- Increased concentration levels
As well as some considerations about:
- What age is best to start yoga?
- How long should kids do yoga for?
- The best type of yoga for kids?
At the Artemis Centre, we are dedicated experts in the physical, social, emotional and academic wellbeing of our members, and want to help them to perform at their best.
Let’s dive into the content.
YOGA – A QUICK BACKGROUND
Originating in ancient India, Yoga was first a spiritual practice with roots in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, but has now extended into a physical and mental workout practiced on a mainstream level.
Yoga has not only become popular among adults. In fact, a national survey in 2017 found that 3% of US children – that’s 1.7 million kids – practice yoga, 400 000 more than in 2007.
Physically speaking, yoga is a movement practice which requires its partakers to assume different positions and move through large ranges of motion. It requires high levels of coordination, flexibility, muscular endurance, and to some degree, muscular strength.
Yoga requires a large level of concentration and focus, and participants are regularly encouraged to be mindful and grounded in the present moment throughout the practice.
The combination of physical and mental aspects of the practice lead to a plethora of benefits that are good for kids’ body and mind.
The BENEFITS OF YOGA FOR KIDS
As kids grow, they often experience large surges in bone length, without an equivalent increase in muscle length, leading to tightness and a lack of flexibility.
Yoga involves moving through large ranges of motion and requires kids to safely push their limits in terms of muscle length and joint mobility.
In my experience as a Fitness Coach working with children, a large proportion of students dislike stretching and find it an uncomfortable and even painful experience. They tend to ‘fight’ the stretch and stop trying after a few moments.
Yoga is different, as children learn to manage their breathing and learn to relax into the stretch, rather than fight against it. Children must learn to control and move their bodies throughout the stretch.
It’s great for active kids to develop a cavalry of effective stretches that they can perform on demand after learning them in yoga.
A GOOD RECOVERY MODALITy
In my role as a Fitness Coach, we speak to our students about the balance between workload (life stressors) and recovery.
Life stressors can be anything from a high weekly sporting load, long school day, or large amounts of homework . These stressors contribute to fatigue and must be counteracted by adequate recovery, in order to prevent injuries, illness and mood swings.
We need to prioritise recovery – the food we eat, the quality of our sleep , as well as the recovery practices we complete on a regular basis.
Yoga is one such recovery modality – it’s a great way to heal your body physically and mentally. Rather than adding in another fatiguing training session for your high performing child, perhaps consider yoga instead.
Improved muscular endurance and strength
Strong muscles and bones are vital for healthy development in our children. They assist in athletic development, help manage weight, assist posture and overall quality of life.
In particular types of yoga, such as Vinyasa, also known as ‘flow’ style yoga, kids are required to control their bodyweight and hold positions for extended periods of time.
Although yoga is not as effective as other forms of exercise such as bodyweight strength training (calisthenics), yoga can lead to improvements in muscular endurance, and to some degree, muscular strength, especially children who are relatively sedentary.
Better coordination and balance
Coordination and balance involves controlling one’s limbs smoothly and effectively. Many yoga poses, such as Tree, Crescent Lunge and Eagle involve limited contact with the ground. They require kids to control their bodies slowly and in new, challenging positions.
Yoga is also performed in bare feet, which is highly advantageous for the intrinsic muscles within the feet and ankle. We rarely use these muscles as we are constantly wearing shoes so using these muscles can help kids to avoid rolled ankles and other foot related soreness.
Yoga not only helps improve physical aspects of fitness but also helps our kids to maintain and better their mental and emotional wellbeing also. One of which can be improved confidence.
Yoga offers kids a whole new set of challenges to master. Yoga instructors are often great at finding a level of progression for each movement that suits the level of ability of their students.
It’s amazing to see how kids react when they can finally touch their toes, hold a new pose, or push themselves off the ground when they never could before!
Improved emotional regulation
Yoga requires children to ground themselves in the present – to forget the stressors, the homework and the frustrations of life and instead to be grounded in the ‘now’.
It helps them to escape their subjective experience of life and enter the objective – what they can tangibly feel, hear and see. We call this mindfulness.
The beauty in being mindful is that when the anxieties and tough moments in life begin to overwhelm us, we can regulate our emotions and see that adrenaline rushing through our veins as purely a sensation.
Yoga is a great way for children to learn to be mindful through movement and can have an impact on your child’s mood.
Boosts concentration levels
Yoga requires children to focus as they must copy and keep up with instructor in order to stay in time with everyone else in the class.
Because yoga does require a level of discipline and concentration, it’s important to consider whether your child is ready to start doing it.
What age is best to start yoga
Most instructors recommend that children can start to practice yoga as soon as they can listen to and follow instructions, which can be as young as four years of age.
However, primary school aged children (ages 6-12) are probably better suited as they have developed the ability to pay attention and are used to class situations.
The younger the child, the more you will need to make yoga ‘fun’ and simple. Making yoga more play and game-based, rather than highly structured, is recommended for younger kids.
What we offer
At Melbourne Girls Grammar we offer yoga to our students and staff members.
For the wider community also offer Learn to Swim classes, a swimming club and gymnastic lessons to the wider community.