Yoga For Children
Experience has demonstrated to us that yoga is an excellent system for promoting healthy development and can be an incredibly effective means of facilitating wellness in children.
It is noninvasive and its “side effects,” including improved self-esteem, emotional equilibrium, more energy and the ability to self-calm, are completely benign if not totally
Children who practice yoga may not only be better able to regulate their emotions, manage stress and calm themselves, studies now show that they may also choose better foods to eat and engage in more physical activity than children who do not. Whether over- or underweight, body image issues and poor eating habits plague our children today. Studies suggest yoga may help.
One such study examined the benefits of yoga for adolescents with eating disorders. These teens attended yoga classes as part of their psychiatric day treatment program. Typically suffering from a lack of self-esteem, nearly 75% reported an increase in well-being. They used the words “relaxed,” “calm,” “energized” and “more awake” to describe how they felt after class. (M.J Fury, MA, RYT, and L.C. Kaley-Isley, PhD, RYT)
A case study on anorexic adolescents found that “focused breathing (pranayama), movement sequences (asana), meditation (dhyana), and alert relaxation (yoga nidra)
…reduced starvation-induced stress, safely reintroduced physical activity for a weakened
body, minimized fatigue and… corrected distorted self-perceptions.” (Susana A. Galle,
PhD, ND, CCN, CCH, and Tomas E. Silber, MD)
Other studies on children and adolescents on anxiety, depression, trauma, mood regulation, sense of well-being, self-esteem and “increased wellness” draw conclusions
about the positive effects of yoga on all of these conditions.
Subjective outcomes included “improved focus, strength, flexibility, and balance;
improved sense of self-awareness and pride; and improved ability to calm themselves.”
It was further reported that “the girls overwhelmingly noted that they felt happier, more
relaxed, less stressed, and more at ease in their bodies on the days they practiced yoga
than on the days they did not.” (A. Bortz, PsyD, RYT and K. Cradock, LCSW, RYT)
Perhaps one of the more interesting studies, submitted by Molly Kenny, MS-CCC of
The Samarya Center in Seattle, Washington, suggested that the physical act of balancing
might improve self-esteem in teens. The positive effects of “balance training” on the
subjects’ concentration and attention were “immediately observable,” and she proposed
that the effects on self-esteem might become more apparent over time.
The scientific community recognizes measurement tools used in these studies. Research
in the field of yoga therapy, however, is largely exploratory at this time and warrants
further investigation. It seems simple. Children are suffering from a lack of connection
to their own bodies, their environment and the food they eat. Yoga facilitates connection.
It’s easy, low cost, accessible and anyone can do it. And now it’s being proven effective.
More and more teachers and other interested adults are sharing yoga with children. Kids
have a natural tendency to share what they are learning when they get home, so this is an
easy way to get the whole family involved. Parents may be practicing yoga themselves,
and kids are always interested in what their parents are up to.
Another way is for children’s yoga teachers to invite parents in for a first and/or last class
of a yoga session. A child’s aunt sitting in on a kids class said to me, “They are doing
real yoga poses! That is great.” I’m not sure what she thought, but now she knows what
she can practice at home with her niece. Family classes are another great way to help
everyone feel an increased sense of well-being while learning a practice they can enjoy
at home. With wide age ranges and levels of ability, family classes can be challenging to
teach but also especially rewarding.
Adenia Linker, Hyde Park mother of nine-year-old twins and longtime children’s yoga
teacher, involves the parents of her yoga students by sending home a newsletter every
few weeks. It’s a simple one-page letter with a picture and description of a pose learned
that week and an inspiring quote along with a new children’s yoga book, a Web site or
some other resource that may interest parents.
The more parents, teachers, doctors and other professionals working with children
understand the practice of yoga and its benefits, the more likely it is to be seriously
considered as a therapy.
In an era of children acquiring conditions and diseases previously unknown in childhood,
proper breathing, exercise and deep relaxation may be the powerful healing force needed.
Yoga resonates with children. ”They love the practice, and they love how they feel afterwards. With all of the research and “proof” now available, it may well be just what
the doctor orders.
These notes come from: