I could list countless ways that yoga benefits children, but today I am going to focus on just five. I have been lucky enough to train with Little Flower Yoga, a wonderful organization with the mission of bringing yoga and mindfulness to children. As detailed in her book, Little Flower Yoga for Kids, Jennifer Cohen Harper discusses the five elements, a teaching method rooted in the eight limbs of yoga but simplified for the engagement of children and adolescents. Not only do these elements provide a wonderful backdrop for teaching, but they also help us understand why yoga is such a powerful tool for children today.
Ready to learn more? Lets go!
1. Connect: Yoga helps children connect to themselves and the outside world. This might sound simple, but in our over-stimulated world full of schedules and screen time, learning how to be more mindful is even more important. Being present in the moment helps children become better learners, builds an awareness of feelings and can improve social skills. How many times has a friend told you something important, and you realized you were thinking of something else? This happens to children, as well, and yoga can help!
2. Breathe: Yoga helps children learn to breathe. Breathing is the easiest way that we can communicate with our nervous system. If we’re feeling tired, our breath can work to energize us, and if we’re feeling tense, our breath can help calm us down. Helping children build an awareness of their breath is an invaluable tool. Has anyone dealt with a wound up child before bedtime? Try a calming breath exercise!
3. Move: Yoga helps children connect to their body. Not only is yoga helpful in providing children with physical activity, but more specific movements within yoga practice can improve attention, self-esteem, anxiety and depression. How often are children able to participate in non-competitive physical activity? So much of our world today is outcome driven- did you win or lose? Did you pass or fail? Yoga provides a unique opportunity for kids to enjoy the process—not the product.
4. Focus: Yoga helps children focus. Much like improving our ability to connect, learning to become more aware of our wandering mind has an incredible impact on children. How many of us notice our thoughts at night before bed? Or maybe we’ve laid in resting pose and tried are hardest to keep our mind blank. That’s where we’re wrong- the goal is not to have no thoughts but to learn how to better control them. Focusing activities within yoga help children learn beneficial skills that will improve their ability to manage their thoughts and feelings.
5. Relax: Yoga helps teach children how to relax. It would be nice if this were something that did not have to be taught, but I think many of us have forgotten how to just be—sometimes we need some of the other elements to help us achieve the final reward of relaxation. When children learn to relax their mind and body, they learn the essential skill of taking a break. This is a tool they can use at school before an exam, on the soccer field or even at home. Being able to calm the mind and body is an essential tool for all of us, and here’s a clue—if we don’t know how to relax, our children may not either.
Did I peak your interest? I hope so! Stay tuned for future posts where I will provide ideas for activities in each category.
Want to learn more about Little Flower Yoga for Kids? Check out their website here.