Teachers are frustrated because attention spans seem to be so short and because they have to be entertainers if they want to engage learning in their classrooms. Parents worry that their kids won’t pass the standardized state tests that often decide promotion to the next grade. So, they cart their kids to tutoring sessions, among all of the sports practices. Kids just don’t have any non-stimulated time, and that is a huge concern. This is where yoga comes in.
Amidst the flurry of activity, there should be time for all kids to turn off their devices and tune out their activities and school work. There should be time for non-competitive physical activity, for some quiet reflection, and for the opportunity to enhance their ability to focus.
These are the big benefits of yoga and this is what kids can get when they learn and practice it.
Become aware of their breathing and the connections between deep breathing and the body’s feel.
Techniques and games that foster this connection serve to improve focus, reduce stress, and actually cause the release of healthy hormones.
Balance: Techniques that focus on balance do far more than just develop control over the physical body. They assist increases in attention in natural ways, rather than through medication, which doctors are so quick to prescribe. As kids focus on a balance pose, they also clear their minds, thinking only of what their bodies are doing.
Kids have lots of natural flexibility – something that we adults lose as we grow older. Doing stretching exercises increases flexibility, a flexibility that forms in muscles and joints and allows them to “yield.” Football players who practice yoga, for example, have far fewer serious injuries because they have developed flexibility. If flexibility exercises can become habitual with kids, they will perform better in any sport.
Focus and Awareness: A typical yoga exercise for young children is to have them close their eyes and focus on sitting just as a statue. They must become aware of all parts of their body in order to keep them still and stiff, and focus on keeping them that way. Then, when a short period of time is over, they are told to relax and just start laughing as hard as they can – a great release of energy and stress. They come to understand that they have control of their bodies and of their minds, and with this understanding comes confidence.
- Relaxation and Meditation: This may be the most important benefit of yoga for young children. The early exercises of tightening and then relaxing muscles, of holding poses and moving from one pose into another, all take the mind away from the “harried” nature of their lives and have a strong calming effect. Meditation on their mats can occur as they sit in a pose or lie flat. In both instances, children can be guided to place their thought on a single thing – maybe a favorite pet or color.
Gradually, additional visualization can be added to meditation. One small private school has an assembly each morning. Children are on mats and perform yoga poses and exercises to music. Then, the “quiet” time begins. As they sit on their mats, softer music is played and they are asked to think of one thing they want to accomplish that day and to see themselves doing it – a small activity that inspires.
Yoga for kids is all about developing habits of body and mind working together to create a more balanced lifestyle and develop great study habits. When these habits are instilled early, they tend to “stick” better.