You’ll have heard that yoga is great for your mind and body, but have you ever wondered what are the benefits of yoga for children?
From boosting children’s self-esteem to helping them with their coordination and memory, there are an array of health benefits of kids yoga that you need to know about.
Within this article we will explain how yoga for children benefits their physical and psychological development by discussing the following topics:
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What is Yoga for Children?
The concept is fairly self-explanatory, this practice involves yoga classes that are specifically designed to accommodate children’s bodies and minds. This form of yoga has been around since the 1970s, and uses poses and teachings that improve children’s posture, strength, flexibility and coordination.
Typically, these classes are formatted differently to those suitable for adults, as child yoga instructors incorporate age-appropriate games and animal noises into their teachings. In addition to this, many instructors also alter names of poses so children can associate said pose with things they already know, such as a cat or a tree pose.
Many grown adults use yoga as a way to unwind and destress after a hard day, children need this outlet too. Like adults, children go through their own strenuous days filled with emotional, physical and social challenges, therefore an outlet that positively influences their mental and physical well being is extremely advantageous.
A Brief History of Yoga for Children
In the 1970s a yoga teacher named Shakta Khalsa began to teach children yoga in her small Kundalini community. She refuted claims which stated that her teachings were just a toned down version of yoga, instead stating that teaching children was entirely different.
Khalsa’s teachings involved using simple descriptions for poses, for example when teaching the Downward Dog pose she got her class to mimic the shape of a mountain, similarly when faced with the Virabhadrasana pose she asked the children to be ‘fearless warriors’.
Khalsa also discovered that yoga for children benefits the body and mind further when using terms that are as simple as possible. When it came to teaching breathing exercises, she avoided terms such as ‘inhale’ and ‘exhale’, and guided the children by having them blow on a feather.
When looking at modern day teachings, we can see that approaches haven’t changed too drastically. Marsha Weing, founder of YogaKids International follows a similar approach to Khalsa, believing that adults can relax and lose themselves within a yoga class, whereas children need constant stimulation.
9 Benefits of Yoga for Children
#1 - Helps Children Manage Anxiety
Yoga includes various breathing exercises that help children to stay calm and approach stressful situations in a healthy way. Deep breathing is one of the most effective ways of exhaling tension and negative energy.
If children are able to deal with anxious situations by taking a few seconds to take a deep breath and rationalise the situation, this encourages them to not think impulsively. Deep breathing increases oxygen supply to the brain and triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, both of which aid us in feeling calmer and more relaxed.
Your nervous system can be divided into two sections - the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic system. The former prepares the body for your fight or flight response, whereas the parasympathetic helps the body to relax by decreasing your heart rate.
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Furthermore, practising breathing techniques is amongst the many benefits of yoga for children and one that further impacts anxiety management. A 2018 study found that Malaysian school children responded to yoga with lower levels of anxiety and stress, reaching higher levels of tranquility in the process.
One method of teaching breathing techniques to children is to have them put one hand on their chest and another on their stomach, asking them to inhale for 5 seconds so they feel their bodies blowing up like a balloon. Hold this breath for 3 seconds before asking them to exhale for 5.
Practising deep breathing is one of the great benefits of yoga for kids in school, at home or in a yoga class. They will feel more confident approaching anxious situations through learning to take a deep breath, rationalising the situation and then dealing with it in a calm manner.
#2 - Boosts Children’s Self-Esteem
Yoga for children has benefits that include boosting their self-esteem and confidence; whether it be through perfecting a pose, improving their flexibility or recognising that yoga can dramatically improve your mood as yoga has fantastic self-esteem boosting qualities.
The more children practise yoga and notice their improvements over time, the more confident they will feel during their practice and, in turn, their daily lives. They will recognise that if they put their mind to something they’re passionate about, they can conquer anything!
One of the wonderful benefits of yoga for kids in school, at home or in a yoga class is that yoga is non-competitive. It goes without saying that some yogis will be more flexible than others, with others able to hold a pose for longer, but ultimately, there’s no number of goals that need to be scored or total amount of points attained.
Yoga is simply a way of connecting the body and mind in a relaxing environment. Meditation also futhers these relaxing properties, if you’d like to learn more OriGym has created a thorough run down of the benefits of meditation.
It is every parent, teacher and yoga instructor's goal to ensure that their kids are happy, healthy and confident beings. So, the benefits of yoga for young children discussed in the previous point (reducing anxiety), alongside increasing self-esteem sets children up for a life of being able to approach situations confidently and happily - a strong foundation to learn so young in life.
#3 - Enhances Concentration
As discussed within the history section of this article, Shakta Khalsa recognised when setting up her practice that children require greater attention when teaching yoga. It’s only natural for children to become bored and lack focus, which is exactly why children’s yoga needs to be as interactive and structured as possible.
While yoga for children has benefits of improving the way they think about stress inducing situations, it also has cognitive benefits such as improving their ability to concentrate on tasks.
If you’re looking to further boost your child’s cognitive development, we’d strongly recommend incorporating eggplant into their diet. For a detailed explanation into eggplant’s health benefits check out this article from OriGym.
Yoga involves a vast number of poses, styles, and breathing techniques that children are to focus upon throughout their session. These classes promote overall dexterity and teach children to concentrate through the practices of balance, coordination, as well as physical and mental poise.
Children also often have a lot of pent up energy, so transferring this energy into concentrating on their yoga flow is a healthy way of releasing it. Including certain poses that require concentration to hold their balance, such as Tree Pose or Angled Crescent Lunge, increases children’s ability to concentrate on tasks for a prolonged period of time.
Concentration levels in yoga for children has also been linked to a sense of accomplishment, when children are successful at poses and other techniques they are more likely to engage with the class.
#4 - Improves Memory Retention
Improving memory is another benefit that yoga can provide for children, for example the lament of meditation included within yoga for children has been known to influence their ability to retain information. Therefore, if children grow up with yoga then their ability to recall information throughout their adulthood is better, compared to someone who didn’t incorporate yoga into their childhood.
When looking into the benefits of yoga for children, there is ample research that supports the idea that yoga can help memory retention. A 2003 study tested the memory capabilities of 11-16-year-olds, who partook in yoga compared to children who did fine art.
Overall, the group which partook in yoga showed a significant increase of 43% in memory scores when compared to those who participated in fine art. With this, we can say with confidence that yoga can improve both your physical and mental wellbeing.
When discussing the benefits of yoga for children this research suggests that it could also benefit them academically. When revising for important tests, children’s brains go into overdrive with stress, a factor which negatively affects their overall performance.
By encouraging children to participate in yoga not only will their stress levels lower, but they will also be able to retain more information when revising.
Interestingly, running has been found to have the same beneficial properties in adults. More information on this matter can be found in the 15 mental health benefits of running article from OriGym.
#5 - Improves Children’s Performances at School
As previously discussed, yoga also benefits children by teaching them to maintain concentration and focus on tasks for a prolonged period of time, this is the same both within and outside of the yoga classroom. They will be able to concentrate more on reading, writing and exam-based work due to their improved concentration from yoga.
A better outlook towards school also reduces levels of anxiety within school-based settings, meaning that they will approach school work, exams and tests with a more positive and open perspective.
If you find yourself struggling with anxiety or any other mental health related issue, please read our article dedicated to mental toughness, in which 21 psychological experts share their best advice.
A 2008 study investigated whether practising yoga improved children’s mental abilities and social skills. Both are essential in the production of good quality school work as a strong cognitive awareness is important in problem-solving and making friends.
The study concluded that practicing yoga will benefit children with psychological challenges by improving their mental ability, along with motor coordination and social skills. Therefore, as evident with this and the previous entry on our list, children’s academic performance will significantly benefit from yoga classes.
#6 - Improve Flexibility and Muscle Strength
It goes without saying that regardless of your age or ability, over time yoga will improve your muscle strength and flexibility. Improving your strength has benefits varying from reducing the chance of injury to increasing their capability to lift a greater amount of weight - factors that we could all benefit from improving.
Additionally, a health benefit of yoga for kids is that they will use a range of muscles throughout their practice. From quadriceps and glutes in Tree Pose to abdominals to erector spinae muscles in Child’s Pose, kids will use a variety of muscle groups throughout their practice, in turn improving their strength.
By improving their flexibility the child’s range of motion will also improve, as will the balance in the muscles surrounding their tendons. In many yoga classes for children instructors will purposefully teach poses that help to strengthen and grown children’s bones, such as:
- Forward Fold
- Butterfly Sit
- Downward Facing Dog
Encouraging children to join in with yoga classes will therefore have significant positive effects on their physical development. By improving the strength and flexibility of their muscles, the children’s posture and motor skills will also significantly improve, allowing them to find success in other physical activities.
For further guidance on how you can improve your flexibility as an adult, click here for our listicle detailing 15 tips to improve flexibility.
#7 - Improves Children’s Posture
In a modern world where children can often be found hunched over a TV playing video games or slouched in a school lesson or assembly hall, there’s no better time to encourage good posture.
There are many poses within yoga that help to develop a strong core so that children are better supported to maintain each pose. With a strong core, comes good posture as they are more likely to stand and sit tall.
If you’re looking for poses that will improve children’s posture, OriGym would recommend heavily incorporating both the Cat/Cow pose as well as the balancing table, into the child’s yoga class. The more that they practice these poses, the higher the chance of good posture will be taken into adulthood.
As kids’ muscles and bones grow and growth spurts become more frequent, the higher the chances of children experiencing growth soreness. But by engaging with yoga children can combat this soreness, by stretching their muscles all whilst maintaining good posture.
Having good posture will significantly benefit these children as they grow, to support this claim OriGym has created a list detailing the 13 benefits of good posture.
#8 - Teaches Discipline
Another one of the benefits of yoga for young children is that it teaches them about discipline. Children should approach stressful situations in a healthy manner with various breathing techniques, to give them more control over their emotions.
Yoga teaches children to clear their minds, think positively and rationally in regards to tricky situations. Discipline comes with time and practice, especially as children will want to make their own way in the world and discover things for themselves.
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An example of a problem children may face is bullying, if a child were to experience this, then yoga will encourage them to deal with the situation in a calm and rational way. Instead of impulsively acting on instinct through physical or verbal violence, yoga will teach children to remain calm, tell a teacher/parent and deal with it healthily.
The key to ensuring that discipline is transferred onto the children is repetitive reinforcement, remember the phrase consistency is key. Behaviours and moods won’t change over one night, children will need constant guidance and support, before they begin to incorporate these teachings into their daily life.
#9 - Strengthens The Mind-Body Connection
Ensuring that children develop a mind-body connection is another one of the benefits of yoga for children. The mind-body connection is the belief that the result, development and outcome of physical illness are down to various psychological factors.
These factors include:
- How you manage your emotions.
- How you maintain relationships,
- The attitudes that you have about yourself.
Emotional health can be affected by the stresses of daily life - the severity of this can vary from having a bad day at work to dealing with a divorce. As for children, this could vary from having a disagreement with a friend to being bullied.
When you are stressed, your body responds in a variety of ways such as an increased blood pressure, struggle with sleeping, shortness of breath and even headaches. Each of these physical responses to your emotional stress is what connects the mind and body.
However, introducing yoga into children’s daily life can help them to feel calmer, more relaxed and think more positively about situations. Their level of mental stress will reduce and the physical side effects of stress will decrease.
Yoga for children benefits them in all of these ways, so by strengthening the mind-body connection through yoga, mindfulness and breathing techniques will help them view the world through a calmer lens.
If you are enjoying this article on the benefits of yoga for children, then you may also enjoy these articles
- Laughter Yoga: Definition, Benefits and Exercises
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- How to Become a Yoga Instructor: The Definitive Guide
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When Should Children Start to Learn Yoga?
Learning yoga is most effective for children who are already familiar with taking instruction. Babies and toddlers will most likely not understand yoga or what they’re doing, whereas children from the approximate age of four will be familiar with taking and understanding instructions and will reap the benefits that yoga provides.
These benefits of yoga for children vary from them feeling more relaxed, managing stress in a healthy way and even helping their memory retention. All of these things are incredibly valuable to children and will benefit them as they approach their teenage and adult years.
Should Kids Do Yoga in School?
There are some great benefits of yoga for kids in school. These range from feeling relaxed, more positive and provide them with the ability to focus more on their studies. In recent years, some schools have begun to incorporate yoga into students’ school days in a bid to help them attain these benefits.
Additionally, as we discussed within the article, one of the benefits of yoga for kids in school is that practising aids memory retention and concentration. After practicing yoga children will be able to focus on their studies, whilst performing at a higher academic level, thanks to their improved memory.
In summary, introducing yoga and meditation into school environments will have a positive effect upon kids with some schools having taken the step to do this already.
How Effective is Yoga for Children?
When looking into the benefits of yoga for children research supports that yoga improves children’s memory, concentration, increases confidence and reduces anxiousness.
Therefore, we can say that yoga is an effective tool for children’s psychological and physical development. The earlier that they begin to engage with the practice, then the more benefits they will gain from its various attributes in later life.
Yoga aids adults in becoming calmer, more rounded and confident people - why wouldn’t you want your children to feel this too? The benefits of yoga for young children are definitely worth taking advantage of!
Before You Go!
There are many benefits of yoga for children with research to support how much yoga can improve mental and physical health.
Yoga for children benefits them from improving memory retention, focus and coordination to more physical benefits such as improving muscle strength, flexibility and posture.
Every parent, teacher and yoga instructor wants the best for their children, and so incorporating yoga practice into their daily routine will certainly benefit them in ways you probably didn’t expect.
Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or are a complete novice, it’s never a bad time to enter the fitness industry. If this is a career you’ve always wanted to pursue, take a look at our personal trainer courses and packages here.
A great way to progress your knowledge is taking a continuous professional development fitness course, check out OriGym’s CPD fitness courses here to see what is on offer.
Download your expert guide on "What Makes A Good Yoga Teacher"
- Chandra Nanthakumar (2018) The Benefits of Yoga in Children. The Journal of Integrative Medicine .
- Manjunath N. and Telles S. (2003) Spatial and Verbal Memory Tests Scores Following Yoga and Fine Arts Camps for School Children. Yoga Research Foundation.
- Galantino, Mary Lou et al. (2008) Therapeutic Effects of Yoga for Children: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Pediatric Physical Therapy.