College of DuPage Nursing Student Kelley Mangerson writes that yoga, meditation, and mindfulness have become vastly popular in today’s society to improve physical and mental health. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC, 2020) reports the percentage of adults who are at least 18 years of age who practice yoga and meditation has increased from 9.5% in 2012 to 14.3% in 2017 and continues to increase. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness, are not only beneficial to adults, however, as the CDC reports, but studies have also shown that yoga and its accompanying practices may improve balance, strength, endurance, aerobic capacity, self-esteem, and focus in children.
Physical Benefits of Yoga in Children
Yoga might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you are thinking about helping your child be more active, however, like adults, children greatly benefit from a variety of different physical activities to ensure all body systems are engaged and developing. Yoga allows children to increase strength by using their own body weight, increase balance and control, strengthen their breathing, and improve endurance. By practicing yoga as a child, a healthy foundation is created along with a healthy relationship with exercise and the ability of children to be proactive with their health as they continue to grow.
Mental Benefits of Yoga in Children
Physical activity, in general, has increasingly shown to be beneficial to mental health for adults and children. Yoga improves focus and attention, memory, social and academic self-esteem, and behavior. Children often feel lost when dealing with stress and emotions, however, by introducing yoga, meditation, and mindfulness they may be more in tune with how they are feeling, which may help them to deal with the emotions they are experiencing. The increased strength they gain from the mind-body connection allows them to take that confidence and apply it to all aspects of their life.
How do I incorporate more yoga into my child’s routine?
Since yoga is advantageous for both adults and children, it is also a great family activity! By getting involved, you can model healthy behavior for your child to learn and grow while improving health in the process. Yoga may be used as an emotional reset by performing simple breathing exercises; such as, taking a deep breath in, holding it for a count of three, and exhaling (Wei, 2016). This will help re-center your child and allow them to approach their next activity with better focus. If you have spare time and are able to be active during the day, you can turn your yoga session into a game! For example, Dr. Marlynn Wei (2016), a psychiatrist, certified yoga teacher, and the author suggests playing the game “Mirror, mirror” to warm-up and boost focus. Here is how you play this game:
- One person is the leader, and chooses a yoga pose, and demonstrates this to the other players.
- The other players copy the move as if they are looking into a mirror.
- With each round, a new player becomes the leader, so that everyone is included.
Covid-19 can’t stop our yoga flow!
Another great thing about yoga is that it can very easily be done at home, with no equipment! While we are all trying to stay safe at home, it can be hard to keep kids occupied and engaged. Even worse, you and your kids may be stuck at the computer all day working from home and doing schoolwork! Taking frequent breaks throughout the day for quick breathing exercises, or a few yoga poses, can really help your kids (and you) to remain focused and involved during those long days on the screen.
CDC. (2018, November 8). Use of Yoga and Meditation Becoming More Popular in the U.S. [Dataset]. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/nchs_press_releases/2018/201811_Yoga_Meditation.htm
Gulati, K., Sharma, S. K., Telles, S., & Balkrishna, A. (2019). Self-Esteem and Performance in Attentional Tasks in School Children after 4½ Months of Yoga. International journal of yoga, 12(2), 158–161. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_42_18
Wei, M. (2020, June 24). More than just a game: Yoga for school-age children. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/more-than-just-a-game-yoga-for-school-age-children-201601299055