Why children should be doing yoga

Image: Pixabay.com

Research has shown that regular yoga practise leads to better mental, physical and intellectual health and, according to psychologist and author of ParentMagic, Carol Surya, the benefits are not only apparent in adults, but children too.

Surya reports that in many schools worldwide, it was now common knowledge that when children did yoga, parents, caregivers and teachers saw a variety of positive results including better self-esteem, improved focus and concentration, and reduced fear and anxiety in children.

“While the physical benefits of kiddies yoga like building balance, co-ordination and strength are important, we see tremendous positive changes in children’s mental health too,” Surya says.

The trend of moving toward a more holistic approach to child wellbeing is fast becoming popular.

In 2019, it was announced that more than 370 schools in England had introduced mindfulness as a subject to improve youth mental health. Surya is also the co-founder of Wise (Wellbeing in Schools and Education), a wellness-based programme that uses meditation tools such as dance, games and yoga with vulnerable children in underprivileged schools across the Western Cape.

“After a morning of meditation and yoga with the children, their whole demeanour changes.

“They are filled with joy, are ready to focus and are even more compassionate with each other,” Surya says.

Below, Surya lists some of the top health benefits of kiddie’s yoga, as well as her tips on how to get your child excited about doing yoga.

Health benefits of yoga for children:

  •  On a physical level, children build balance, strength and endurance. It also helps with co-ordination, and increases aerobic and lung capacity.
  •  Builds self-esteem and confidence.
  • Improved memory, increased brain plasticity, better concentration and focus.
  •  Helps instil calm and relaxation. In fact, some yoga poses can even help your child to fall asleep easier.
  •  Builds compassion and kindness.
  •  Reduced anxiety and stress.

Usually the sympathetic part of your nervous system takes over when stressed, but yoga brings about balance by activating the parasympathetic part (recovery) of the system, which releases feelings of relaxation and calm instead.

This teaches the body to more easily activate with the parasympathetic system in times of stress.

  • Helps children to develop a more conscious connection to their bodies and the natural world around them.

This is especially important in a time where being environmentally aware and conscious is vital.

“What I love is when I see children in a group doing yoga together, and they are really proud of getting the poses right.

“This intense concentration gives them a real sense of accomplishment,” Surya says.

How to get your child excited about yoga:

  •  Make yoga fun for kids.

The best way to make things fun for kids is to turn yoga into a game or story.

For example, you could do “unicorn yoga” with your little one and make unicorn poses (eg “tree pose” becomes a unicorn balancing on one leg).

  •  Get involved. Kids are naturally curious and if they see you doing yoga, they are more inclined to want to join in. It’s also something fun to do together
  •  Animal poses. We use the ‘”Magic Mat and its little secret” in our Wise programme, which introduces children to yoga through likening the poses to different animals and their qualities.

For example, the owl pose is about getting in touch with our inner wisdom, while the giraffe pose helps us to stand tall and believe in ourselves.

  •  Make yoga cards. Download printable yoga cards off the internet or make your own.

Get your child to choose three cards each day or take turns with their siblings to choose.

There are some great themed yoga cards available (e.g. wildlife, marine life etc.).

You can even incorporate themes that your child may be learning at school. This way you can learn and do yoga at the same time.

Friday, June 21 marked International Day of Yoga, officially declared by the UN for the first time in 2014 as a day to celebrate the wonderful benefits of yoga.

The Wise wellness-based programme is active in schools in Mitchells Plain, Hout Bay and Bonteheuwel in the Western Cape.

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