It is no secret that yoga, meditation, and mindful breathing can improve our overall physical and mental health, and children of any age are no exception.
Studies have shown that the number of schools practicing yoga and meditation with young children has increased since 2012. A study by the CDC shows that the percentage of children aged 4-17 years who practiced yoga increased significantly from 3.1% in 2012 to 8.4% in 2017 (hint: that equals to almost half a million more children than previous years!). Meditation also increased significantly from 0.6% in 2012 to 5.4% in 2017.
So, why the drastic increase in yoga and meditation in recent years?
Overall, children across the globe have greatly benefitted from regular yoga practice. In a study published by the National Library of Medicine, children showed fewer negative behaviors and an increase in balance with consistent yoga practice. An additional study showed that children showed great improvement of mood and memory, less stress and anxiety, and increased self-esteem!
More benefits than that have been reported. Strength and better sleep also accompany regular yoga practice in young children.
There are many beginner yoga poses for children to explore. Take a look at a few that are worth trying at home!
This pose is quite easy as it involves a position everyone knows – sitting! It involves sitting up straight with the legs crossed.
First sit on the ground with a tall, elongated spine. Cross the legs and bring the knees back to the earth. Hands can be facing up on the knees or together at heart center and can be held for a few mindful breaths or while meditating!
Bhujangasana or “Cobra Pose”
This pose is super fun, as children can pretend they are a snake laying on their belly in tall grass. Bring the hands underneath the shoulders and press up to straighten the arms, lifting the chest to the sky. Hold this pose for a few mindful breaths. Maybe practice your hissing while in this pose? Who can hiss like a snake the best?
This pose fights tiredness, helps to keep you present in the moment, and decreases general stress and anxiety.
Balasana or “Child’s Pose”
The child’s pose is a great and simple post to do at home and involves sitting on your heels and leaning forward. Press the hips back towards the heels and stretch the arms out towards the front of the body, resting the forehead to the earth. It’s a common sensation that this position feels as though you are being held or what it feels like to be in the womb before birth. It can promote relaxation, decrease stress, and increase flexibility and strength! So, it can be wonderful to use when a child is feeling overwhelmed.
Ardha Padmasana or “Half-lotus pose”
Easier than the lotus pose, the half-lotus pose is equally as powerful! This pose requires the body to sit down and fold the legs in front of the body. Bring one leg to rest on top of the other while flexing the feet. Do the same on the other side, as well. This helps to ground oneself, increase hip flexibility, and correct posture. Make this pose creative – provide a story or meditation while in this pose.
Seated forward bend
This pose, much like the splits, requires you to sit on the ground with the legs stretched out to the sides. Don’t forget to flex your feet! Bring the arms up overhead and fold over each leg and breathe into the stretch. Children who love gymnastics will greatly enjoy this stretch. It can also decrease stomach pain!
Seated forward Fold
The next stage after a seated forward bend is to move the legs to the front of the body, fold over, and bring the hands to the feet. If the hands cannot reach the feet, reach for the ankles. This move helps in aiding digestion, decreasing anxiety and stress, and promoting relaxation in each breath.
This pose is incredible to work on strength and balance and is so much fun to practice. All you have to do is step into a high lunge (bending the front leg and taking the back foot back, flat to the ground). Bring the arms overhead, pointing to the sky above, focusing on keeping the hips squared/aligned. Hold this pose for a few peaceful breaths. This pose helps children improve circulation, focus, and promotes balance!
The Butterfly Pose
This is an easy and almost natural position for children to assume. It is also fun to sit with your legs out, feet together, and pretend you are a beautiful butterfly flapping your wings. Focus on how great the sensation is and ground yourself within that feeling.
Vrksasana or “Tree Pose”
The tree pose can introduce a challenge for your children, offering them the opportunity to push themselves out of their “comfort zone”. If this pose is too much, there are variations of it!
By shifting your weight to one foot, bring the other foot just above your ankle and near your shin. Bring the hands up to heart center and focus on a spot or object that is not moving. Hold for a few breaths and work on the other side. It is fun to turn this pose into a playful competition or practice becoming a “tree”, imaging where your roots go into the earth as you balance on one foot. This is a great pose to work on overall strength.
The last pose to be introduced is savasana. It is super simple and involves lying the body flat against the ground. Arms should be placed to the sides with the legs stretched straight out in front. It is wonderful for mediation and cooling down from yoga practice. Practice deep breathing in this position and you will feel the benefits of relaxation, increased focus, and much more.
Yoga is so much more than stretching – it involves the entire being. It is especially beneficial for children with sensory processing disorders, children on the autism spectrum, and those with learning disorders.
Here at The Nest Schools, we value the importance of practicing yoga at an early age. In our Fit Buddies Enrichment Program, children practice yoga, mindfulness, and meditative breathing and are taught that this is a valuable tool to use when feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Danielle Hunter, The Director of Education at The Nest Schools, knows just how crucial it is that children are introduced to yoga as a great coping mechanism.
“Like all forms of movement, yoga and mindful breathing are really powerful for young children and their overall development,” said Hunter. “When children engage in yoga exercises, they are learning to manage their emotions, relieve anxiety, develop a sense of self, and develop body awareness. This is also an excellent tool for increasing children’s ability to concentrate as they are learning to be fully present in the moment, focusing solely on how their bodies feel, as well as building their strength of both large and small muscles!”
Whether your child is a newbie yogi or a zen master, every child can benefit from exploring new yoga poses. It can be even better when their parents join in on the fun!
Overall, creating a foundation for wellness at an early age has never been more important than now. We hope this has encouraged you to try a few of these poses, and who knows, you might even have a new family hobby to enjoy together!