We’ve been doing some research on the physical and mental benefits of yoga for kids. There seems to be pretty universal agreement across a wide range of disciplines that it is officially good for you! This is no surprise to those of us who do yoga, or see kids doing yoga, but it’s great news nonetheless!
- Helps develop the right balance of muscle tone and strength throughout the body to support the joints.
- Builds core strength for good posture and overall physical fitness.
- Helps to maintain flexibility and mobility in all joints and muscles.
- Encourages the retention of calcium to help build strong bones through weight-bearing postures.
- Supports and strengthens the immune system by reducing stress and stimulating the lymph system (the body’s highway of white blood cells which fight viruses and infections).
- Improves balance, alignment and coordination with practice of postures.
- Helps children develop a positive image of their body and an awareness of how to look after it.
- Helps balance energy levels and calms the nervous system with twists that stimulate the spinal cord and regular practice of relaxation
- Develops sensory awareness – kids learn to notice what’s going on in their body and mind while they’re in postures.
- Yoga can accommodate all body shapes and sizes and is not competitive, so it’s a good form of exercise for non-sporty kids too.
- Keeps the heart and respiratory system fit and strong, encouraging better circulation by getting the heart pumping and using more of the space in the lungs with deeper breathing.
- Improves the digestive system with yoga postures that get things moving in the gut and by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system during relaxation, triggering important acids in the stomach to be released for breaking down food. That’s why you hear everyone’s tummy start to rumble during savasana!
- A reduced risk of injury in sports and games with better overall fitness and coordination gained through yoga practice and better flexibility in the joints.
Mental, emotional and social benefits
- Increases attention span and improves concentration through the story structure, and the inclusion of multiple learning styles:‘visual’ through seeing the story and yoga performed, ‘auditory’ through hearing the instructions and the narrative, and ‘kinesthetic’ through feeling the body in all postures and connecting emotionally to the story.
- Kids build compassion and empathy for themselves and others through exploring the stories’ meanings in a non-competitive environment in class.
- More oxygen circulates round the body and brain during yoga practice and breathing exercises, so improving memory retention and learning ability.
- Kids build self-confidence because they can do the yoga, and by relating to inspirational stories and role models.
- The stories encourage self-expression with the use of imagination and creativity, physical postures and vocal sound effects.
- Kids get better at dealing with anxiety and stress because they learn to incorporate relaxation and breathing techniques into daily life.
- The stories support curriculum learning - especially Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE).
- Improves relationships and social awareness through group and partner work and role-playing in stories.
- Encourages healthy sleep patterns with the practice of relaxing the body and lengthening the breath.
- Increases confidence with speech in interactive parts of the stories and improves vocal ability as the voice is exercised in tandem with postures.
- Encourages joy and a positive outlook with fun stories and a happy experience during their yoga class.
If you want to have a quick go at kids' yoga at home, try a free yoga adventure!
There are great classes happening in every corner of the world which will help your child get these benefits. Google 'kids yoga' in your area.
This list of benefits is the outcome of various conversations I’ve had with teachers, child care professionals, occupational therapists, parents, physiotherapists, nutritionists and…children (who also have a point of view!) - and the collected wisdom of some great reference books:
Children and Young People's Workforce - Level 3 Diploma Candidate Handbook
Introduction to the Anatomy and Physiology of Children: A Guide for Students of Nursing, Child Care and Health
Anatomy of Hatha Yoga: A Manual for Students, Teachers and Practitioners by H. David Coulter
Yoga Anatomy-2nd Edition, by Leslie Kaminoff