Kids and Yoga: A Place to Relax, Play and Ease Stress

We usually think of childhood as a sweet and wonderful time without the stresses of adult existence, but children get stressed too!  In fact, it should be no surprise that highly stressed societies breed highly stressed children. 

Children are asked to manage a barrage of information coming from their televisions, video games, computers and smart phones. Their hectic schedules are similar to those of their parents; running from one activity to another with precious little time to play, rest, or sit quietly and do nothing. All of that activity is bound to take its toll. 

Psychologists have long known that children living in highly stressed environments frequently suffer from myriad of emotional and behavioral problems. These problems are often linked to difficulties at school and troubled relationships with peers and family members. Most children experience a certain degree of stress as they navigate new situations and learn new skills. Many face serious stress because of family conflict, divorce, illness, death, unemployment or relocation. These serious stressors affect parents as well, and can sometimes limit their ability to offer emotional and behavioral support to their children. Many families seek the support of friends, family, clergy, community or professional counselors to weather the storm. Some have little or no access to these support systems and need to rely on their internal resources to cope. Yoga classes offer children and their families the skills to stay calm, remain present, and connect with their joyful nature.

More organizations are recognizing that children can benefit from regular yoga practice. A recent review of yoga programs in schools suggests that regular yoga practice is linked to lower levels of stress, stress-reactions and negative behaviors, and improvements in emotion regulation, social skills, attention, self-confidence, concentration, and other factors related to personal and academic success (Serwacki & Cook-Cottone, 2012). There are also many physical benefits of yoga for children including improvements in overall fitness, flexibility, coordination, balance, strength, and increased relaxation.  These are particularly important for a society in which many youngsters are suffering the effects of a sedentary lifestyle including obesity, diabetes, attention problems and cardiac disease. 

Yoga classes for children are cropping up at many yoga studios and health clubs. Many classes bring creative play to children’s yoga classes, asking kids to bark like a dog in downward facing dog pose, hiss like cobra, or roar like a lion. Movement, sound and breath allow children to experience a release of tension while connecting them with their ability to be powerful or peaceful. Most children are natural imitators, and love the experience of learning new ways to move their bodies and to express themselves. 

Whether 5 or 95, most people can benefit from regular yoga practice. Children may be particularly prone to gain from learning skills that allow them to be flexible, resilient, and enable them to manage stress. These skills will help them to succeed in this fast-paced, challenging world.

Reference: Serwacki, M. L. & Cooke-Cottone, C. (2012). Yoga in the Schools: A Systematic Review of the Literature. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 22, p. 101-108.

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