Yoga has long been a popular form of exercise that adults use to improve their flexibility and ease anxiety. Over the past several years, kids have also begun to discover the many benefits that come with regular yoga practice, and educators have even started to find ways to incorporate yoga into their curriculum.
Today, approximately one in 12 children between the ages of four and 17 practice yoga, and this number is expected to rise. When you teach your kid yoga, you help them learn far more than just how to maneuver their body through the poses. You’ll also be passing down these five essential lessons that help your child navigate through life at any age.
Practice Makes Perfect
Children today are often exposed to many situations where they experience instant gratification. Your child might be able to post a photo online and receive positive feedback from their friends within minutes. Teaching children that hard work pays off is critical for helping them learn how to be successful at school and in their future careers.
Many children also tend to think that other people are good at certain things because they are born with talent. While talent does play a role in a child’s success, it's also known that deliberate practice can lead to high levels of achievement. With yoga, children must practice learning how to hold a pose, and your child will see that they can eventually hold advanced poses over time. Seeing the results of their practice sessions will also translate to them being more motivated to practice other skills such as reading and mathematics.
If You Fall, Get Back Up
When your child was a toddler, they likely had no problem getting back up every time they fell while they were learning to walk. While the level of resilience toddlers display is admirable, it seems like children lose some of their ability to shake off failure as they get older. Watching as your child starts to let frustration get in the way of their success is heart-wrenching, but you don’t have to let this become a regular pattern.
Yoga requires children to push their bodies beyond their comfort zone to learn increasingly advanced poses. As they do, children are bound to fall down occasionally. Trying to hold a pose too long or forgetting how to use correct posture are common mistakes for beginners. But your child’s yoga instructor will gently encourage them to get back up and try again when they fall. These opportunities to practice coming back from failure have been shown to increase resilience in children who participate in yoga programs at school.
Only Judge Yourself Against Yourself
Humans have a natural tendency to compare themselves to others, and you might have noticed your child doing this more as they get older. While it's normal to occasionally be jealous of a peer achieving a new skill, it is important to help your child learn how to accept that everyone develops at a different pace. Children who compare themselves to others on a regular basis are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem. Yoga classes are the perfect place for children to learn that it is okay if they aren’t doing exactly what everyone else can do.
In a typical yoga class, participants are encouraged to do what feels right for their body. This often means that people in the same class use different tools to hold a pose. While one person may use a block or strap to maintain a pose, another may not need anything at all. Your child will also learn that people can struggle with a beginner pose even if they can hold several advanced ones. Learning how to pay attention to only what they do well and what they need to learn helps your child see their own inner strength versus comparing themselves to someone else.
Challenges Make You Stronger
It can take many years to make it to an advanced level in yoga, and each new pose represents a challenge that your child needs to overcome to reach their goal. The good thing about yoga is that children naturally enjoy pushing their bodies to reach new limits, which means that your child won’t hardly notice that they are challenging themselves as they practice their poses.
With each new pose that your child learns, their muscles grow stronger and increase in flexibility. Your child will be able to see the results of their hard work over time, which encourages them to keep working on making it through new challenges. The confidence that this creates will then help your child be ready to tackle new challenges that arise in their social and academic life.
The Mind-Body Connection Is Strong
Young children are just as susceptible to developing depression and anxiety as adults, and yoga is a tool that can help them learn how to manage their stress levels. Several studies have been done using yoga as an intervention for children with depression and anxiety, and 70% of them showed improvements in the participant’s symptoms. Helping children learn how to use yoga to manage their symptoms can also help them to avoid using substances to cope that could require addiction treatment down the road.
Yoga instructors frequently encourage children to pay attention to how the different poses affect their mind and body. For instance, holding a pose may ease tension in a child’s neck and shoulders that develops from stress. Children also tend to find that doing breath work during their yoga sessions further helps them to relax. Learning about the mind-body connection at an early age gives your child a tool that they can use to combat stress at every stage in life.
One of your biggest goals as a parent is to pass down life lessons that help your child to mature into a happy and healthy adult. Yoga classes for children are designed to be fun and challenging, and they also highlight those values that your family needs to remember. Whether you dive into a parent and child class or sign your child up for lessons on their own, you’ll be providing them with a form of physical activity that also makes them mentally and emotionally stronger.
nccih.nih.gov-Yoga: What You Need to Know
npr.org-Practice Makes Perfect
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov-Yoga for Children and Young People's Mental Wellbeing
highlights.com-Kids and Comparing Themselves to Others
frontiersin.org-Yoga As an Intervention
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com-Dual Diagnosis Treatment