Practicing yoga can provide kids with physical benefits such as strength and flexibility, but also improved emotional control and a boost of self-confidence.
By Nicole Nikanorov
Growing up in a high-paced society can be stressful for kids. Competitive pressures from school can cause stress and anxiety to build. Yoga and meditation are great ways to counteract these pressures and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
We spoke with two yoga and pilates instructors to find out how yoga and meditation can help your kids.
How does frequent practice of yoga and meditation affect children outside the studio?
The benefits of yoga and meditation flow through the body during classes and continue to flow outside the studio as well. Yoga is “shown to help kids with focus and increased attention span” says Amie Wang, Pilates After School Instructor and owner of Play It Fit, LLC. According to Stephanie Chee Barea, team yoga expert and owner of Mela Yoga, yoga also “helps children to regulate their emotions, teaches them how their body and mind works, and how to handle stress and anxiety” especially since children pick up on the extreme amount of pressure put on being successful. Both instructors agree that frequent meditation allows children to become one with themselves and find groundedness.
Any tips on finding a studio and instructor?
As with any activity, the right instructor can truly make a class special. While yoga might ultimately provide stress relief, introducing your child to a new and unfamiliar environment for the first few times can be a little overwhelming. Both Barea and Wang highly encourage parents to drop in on a trial class, if offered, before committing. If you have a younger child, Barea recommends finding a studio with “age appropriate classes, one where the teacher has a good understanding of where they are at in age appropriate yoga delivery.” Some studios offer classes that incorporate games into their practice to create a playful environment that helps keep children engaged.
What if my child thinks that yoga isn’t active enough?
Some children believe that they will not enjoy yoga and meditation because they picture traditional adult classes. One tip is to look for classes that are adjusted for a younger audience. Some studios integrate art and games into their sessions. Barea uses ice breakers and encourages children to share stories about their lives to “keep kids engaged and connected with their peers”. This builds a community and a sense of belonging that make classes fun.
What kids get the most benefit from yoga?
As with any sport or activity, always try it out before you can determine if it is a good fit. If you see that your child might have a bit too much energy or has trouble focusing, they might benefit from frequent meditation. Both instructors have noticed that children who are dealing with anxiety are getting more recommendations to yoga classes from their teachers and counselors. Barea notices another trend among the children who attend her classes. They are often kids who “don’t feel like they have found a sense of belonging in their school environment”. Unlike other activities and sports, there is no sense of performance-based competition and no pressure to accelerate at a certain pace. Everyone improves at their own pace with the shared goal of relaxation and connecting with their inner selves.
Tips for practicing yoga at home
If you wish to further your bond with your child or have scheduling constraints – here are some tips from the instructors on how to practice yoga at home!
- Preschool / Early Elementary – Young children love to mirror adults. If you, the parent, practice yoga in your home, invite your child to join you. Focus on breath regulation and keep it short as younger children have a shorter attention span. You don’t have to be a yogi! Even the simplest poses can have a powerful impact.
- Elementary / Middle – Children in elementary or middle school are more independent and might rather do their own meditation. Barea suggests that parents can help their child “identify the spaces where they are feeling overwhelmed and encourage them to use a yoga related skill to calm down”. Wang also recommends practicing deep breathing and thankfulness at home.
- Middle / Highschool – Older kids and teens can benefit from having their own personal yoga mat. Even if they do not get the chance to practice yoga frequently, the mat can serve as a reminder that there is an option for an outlet for their emotions.