The Benefits of Yoga for Children

Young children have a natural flexibility and enjoyment for life that is perfectly suited to yoga. The gentle and non-competitive nature of yoga makes this form of exercise relevant for all age groups and fitness levels. In particular, yoga teaches young children certain values and skills that can be carried through life.

The day to day life of a child might not appear stressful from an adult point of view. Nevertheless, children do experience their fair share of pressure. Parents, extended family members, school, clubs, hobbies, and of course, peers all exert some level of influence over young children, and this influence is not always welcome. All of these factors can contribute to what we, as adults, refer to as stress.

Sometimes this stress manifests itself as behavioral problems such as temper tantrums, rebellion, poor conduct, or withdrawal. Yoga teaches young children certain relaxation skills and breathing techniques that can help them deal with their stress in more effective ways.

Perhaps the biggest problem faced by young children is the lack of control they have over their own lives. Parents control what they wear, where they go, what time they have to go to bed, and how often they are allowed to play video games. School teachers control the classes they have to go to, what time they are allowed to eat lunch, and how much homework they have to do.
As yoga is non-competitive and personal, young children can learn a lot about self-control from practicing the poses and developing at their own pace. Yoga fosters a great sense of accomplishment in young children as they progress through the different poses. In all age groups, yoga encourages self-esteem, concentration, co-ordination, balance, and body awareness. These are entirely positive traits and skills, and it is never too early to begin developing them.

The vast majority of adults (aside from gymnasts, ballerinas, and so on) have let their flexibility slip away from them. Yoga teaches adults to loosen up and stretch their muscles to regain their lost flexibility. The great thing about practicing yoga from a young age is that a child’s natural flexibility is still intact.

Yoga can be used to help children maintain their flexibility as they progress into adolescence and adulthood. This is such as important advantage because it encourages children to respect their bodies, which in turn promotes good general health and posture. Children who practice yoga and continue to do so into adulthood are considerably less likely to develop back problems and joint problems. Furthermore, those with good flexibility are seldom afflicted with the aches and pains that tend to follow moderate or intense physical exercise.

Competitive sports (such as football, basketball, swimming, hockey, or badminton) are wonderful for developing sportsmanship. Yoga can often work to complement high energy competitive sports. For one, the flexibility, balance, focus and core strength development acquired with the practice of yoga are highly valued physical and mental attributes in nearly all sports. Also, the non-competitive nature of yoga teaches social acceptance and respect, and encourages children to adopt a more accommodating attitude to others. Where highly competitive sports can foster stress, often the practice of yoga can help kids ‘decompress’ from such activities.

Research has established that regular yoga practice can eliminate symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by focusing on certain aspects of practice such as breath, exertion, stillness and relaxation. In addition, yoga is great for children with autism because it encourages the acquisition of new motor skills, and if practiced in a group, social skills. The repetitive structure of yoga is particularly appealing to children with autism, who thrive on repetition. By gradually introducing alterations, such as taking a pose to the next level, or adding slight variations to the routine, children with autism can learn to accept small changes and become more flexible on a psychological level.

Last but not least, yoga can be fun! Many yoga poses are named after animals or objects in nature, such as cat pose, tree pose, lion pose, mountain pose, downward facing dog pose, the cobra etc. In fact, there is even a pose called child’s pose.

Parents should be aware that children can gain a great deal of enjoyment from choosing favorite poses and incorporating animal sounds into breath placement. If you’re feeling really creative, you can form a story out of a series of yoga poses to increase your child’s immersion into the activity.

The benefits of introducing yoga at a young age are overwhelming. Children can maintain their flexibility, develop good posture and balance, and learn a thing or two about body awareness. Yoga can also reduce stress, promote a sense of self-control, and help to overcome the symptoms of childhood disorders. The non-competitive nature of yoga makes it a perfect activity to promote social acceptance and respect. Ultimately, yoga can be a fun and varied way to introduce exercise into any child’s life.

If you appreciate yoga, check out Brilliant Yoga, where you can learn quick, easy yoga techniques to help you lose weight and tone your body.

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