More and more schools today are focusing on educating the whole child through anti-bullying, health and wellness, and character education. Teaching kids simple yoga poses helps to support the education of the whole child, which in turn maximizes the learning process.
Yoga has become the most widely practiced exercise system in the world, not only for adults but for children as well. According to a National Health Interview Survey, there are 21 million adult yoga practitioners in the United States, with 1.7 million American children under the age of 17 who practice yoga as well. The many health benefits of yoga for adults are equally applicable for our youth, as yoga nourishes the mind, body, and spirit, and paves the way for a life-long tradition of health and fitness. Children of all ages and sizes and varying degrees of athletic abilities can practice yoga, a non-competitive form of exercise.
There are many benefits of yoga for children that stretch far beyond flexibility. For example, yoga helps kids to be in the present moment, which is one of the most basic requirements for learning. Practicing Tree pose builds concentration and focus, which not only brings children’s attention to focusing on what they are doing in the here-and-now, but also helps them with their balance, confidence, and mind-body awareness and connection.
Yoga also provides children with a healthy way to express and balance their emotions through promoting a more relaxed, comfortable state of being. By just focusing on their breath in Easy pose, kids are learning a valuable lifelong tool to calm their minds and bodies and to ease stress. The breath has amazing powers to soothe the nervous system, and breathing in and out through the nose can have a positive impact on children’s moods and energy levels.
In addition, yoga is also a form of exercise that helps kids stay physically fit. Children need exercise, but all too often the physical education programs in schools focus on competition and performance, sometimes pushing children beyond their limits. Yoga, on the other hand, involves doing what is right for each individual’s body type. It benefits not only the child who delights in team sports, like volleyball, basketball, and soccer, but also the child who prefers individual sports, such as tennis, dance, and the martial arts. Even kids who are not good at sports can achieve excellent results. Yoga keeps kids fit through physical strengthening; maintaining the postures requires effort from young muscles. Plank pose keeps children’s bodies both strong and limber.
In summary, yoga is a natural and healthy way for children to exercise, relax, focus, and strengthen their minds and bodies; these valuable tools will help them navigate through school and into adulthood as well.