How Does Yoga Affect Children?

Yoga ideas and products for kids, plus 3 ways parents and children can enjoy yoga together

Who thought the day would come when moms and dads would have to schedule play dates for their children? Americans are living in the busiest, most stressful time in history; that means kids are too! Yoga’s effect on children is a positive one and might be just what your child needs.

Yoga and stress

Children, without a doubt, are affected by the speed with which their family does life. Children are also affected by stressful events, like a death in the family or moving to a new school. Kids need a way to manage stress and anxiety.

Oprah conducted a radio interview with Dr. Kathleen Hall regarding helping children manage stress. One of the first action steps she mentions is exercise. Dr. Hall said it's important to instruct children in stretching, breathing exercises and "chair yoga" positioning, in addition to ensuring they get plenty of regular exercise. Children can be taught to utilize these strategies to reduce stress before a test, for example, according to Dr. Hall.

Yoga is a great way to teach them how to be calm, while gaining an awareness of their bodies, self-control and discipline. Children need a quiet place, just like adults, and yoga can help them relax enough in freedom to just be a kid.

Yoga and partnership

Yoga has also been known to help children with behavioral issues relate in a relationally healthy way with other children.

Agape Yoga Studio in Connecticut notes on its website that yoga helps children focus and concentrate while building a sense of self-awareness. Agape Yoga Studio goes on to say that yoga can be used to help improve a child's self-esteem and relationships.

Teaching kids “partner poses” helps them work together in a safe environment that is conducive to partnership and learning team skills. It’s a great way to facilitate strategic “play time” while your kids, siblings, and their friends have a really good time.

Yoga and ADD

Kids who are hyperactive can also benefit from yoga. Yoga naturally teaches calming, relaxing breathing techniques, and the focused time in specific postures helps still your children. Children with hyperactive tendencies need a higher amount of movement and yoga can help their impulses move in a positive direction.

According to a 2004 study of 8- to 13-year-old boys with ADD published in the Journal of Attention Disorders, practicing yoga once a week for five months resulted in increased concentration, mental and physical discipline and improved confidence among study participants. Parents of the study participants reported that their sons were less hyperactive. The study did not, however, conclude that yoga can be used in lieu of medication.

Yoga for kids

Gaiam has partnered up with Scooby Doo in the past to create a fun line for children that includes a Scooby workout mat, mat bag and yoga ball. There are plenty of cool products on the market that will jump start your kid’s interest in participating in yoga. You can purchase their favorite color mats and let them choose a pattern they will love to look at in Downward Facing Dog.

Yoga DVDs for kids

Gaiam also offers streaming online videos and DVDs that your kids will love during playtime, awake time or when Mommy needs some “me” time. The kids hear from animals, nature and even talking trees, roaring like a lion or stretching like a puppy. The DVDs have the added benefit of teaching kids their alphabet or how to go from silly mode to calm mode.

Whatever your child’s personality, participating in yoga on a regular basis can have the same benefits it has for adults. Your child will see increased focus, attention, strength and flexibility, along with decreased stress.

Animals are intriguing to kids, which is why moms and dads everywhere are forced to endure the zoo. Moving, stretching and playing fill up the days of children. Warriors paint purpose in a child’s heart. Good thing yoga has all of this and more; therefore, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get your kids excited about yoga.

Play up the animal theme

That’s right:

  • Meow in Cat pose.
  • Moo when you arch your back for Cow pose.
  • Teach a wind-and-flight lesson when you attempt Eagle.
  • When in Pigeon pose, ask your kids to remember the scene from Home Alone 2 where the bird lady that Kevin McCallister is so afraid of turns out to be a rather lovely, generous, inspiring woman.

Yoga is an awesome opportunity to teach your children about animals, the elements and maybe even not judging a book by its cover. Try using a kids’ yoga DVD or online streaming workout at home. Chances are they will remember the stories and the poses next time.

Don’t take yoga too seriously

For the most part, kids love recess, running around and playtime, so try not to take yoga so seriously when attempting to get your kids excited enough to participate.

  • Laugh with them about how hilarious you both look in Downward Facing Dog.
  • Slap them a high-five when they make it through their first Sun Salutation.
  • Use a children’s yoga ball and enjoy watching them learn balance as they roll off a few times.
  • Try not to get too disappointed if they simply refuse to meditate, or if they begin to double over in laughter when you chant “Ohhhhhm.”

Kids want to play, so encourage their strengths, while teaching them to be healthy, whole individuals.

Decide to raise little warriors

Kids love adventure, which is where a good series of Warrior poses comes into play.

  • Lay out your children’s yoga mat(s) on the living room floor.
  • Have them put on a shiny, plastic breastplate, like Joan of Arc. Pull out your daughter’s Pocahontas costume. Have them dress up like Christopher Columbus, William Wallace, Mother Teresa, Ghandi or Martin Luther King Jr. Whomever their favorite heroes and warriors are, take them on a journey through history with the legendary as they practice yoga with you.

The ultimate goal of yoga is to create a desire in people to “live to give,” which establishes peace and stillness through an awareness of self and others. This is a fantastic teaching moment to have with your children about leaving a legacy with their lives. An ancient proverb says, “Train up your child in the way he (she) should go and in their old age, they will not depart from it.” Train your kids to be Warriors for good!

Find our full selection of yoga for kids videos at GaiamTV.com.

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