By Anthony Smith
From hot yoga to power yoga to dog yoga, it seems that yoga is everywhere these days and we Australians are more than happy to embrace it. In fact more people take a yoga class each year than play Australian Rules Football.
The advantages of yoga for adults are well known, which is why we keep going back year after year. But yoga’s benefits are not just restricted to stressed-out adults with tight lower backs. In fact, yoga offers a wealth of benefits to children, from young toddlers through to teens.
It is not surprising then that kids yoga has taken off around the country. Seen as a viable alternative to (or complement to) joining the local sporting team, tai kwon do, or even French lessons, young people around Australia are taking up regular yoga practice in fun supportive environments. Here are 5 important reasons to consider seeking out regular yoga classes for your child.
Enhances concentration: Focus and concentration is a natural by-product of a child learning to move his or her body through the various poses, he or she acquires focus and concentration. It helps develop their attention span, which helps school performance and behavioural issues.
Confidence: Learning to master any skill is great for your child’s self-esteem. Children are naturally flexible and it is easy for them to enjoy poses early on, helping them to believe in their abilities and provide motivation to go on. Yoga also teaches persistence and patience as a path to success.
Positive body awareness: As children are still growing and developing yoga is a fun and safe way to improve co-ordination and body awareness, teaching kids to tune in and listen to feedback from their bodies as they move through the postures. Alison Potts, owner and director of Brisbane Yoga Tree says yoga helps children get in touch with movement in a culture dominated by digital screens. “We’re in a time now where kids are getting fewer opportunities to do what comes naturally to them – that is, running around and getting energy moving through their bodies, really feeling who they are in their physical selves, head to toes, “ she says. “Yoga gives kids an experience of their whole selves – it is dynamic, energetic and centred on their whole selves. That’s why kids love yoga – because the reward they get from it is what their natural bodies already crave.”
Relaxation and stress relief: The practice of yoga is a natural anti-dote to every day stress in kids’ lives. The relaxation benefits help with sleeping patterns and keeping kids calm. Breathing and meditation also goes hand in hand with yoga and these tools empowers kids to find ways to cope with and manage their own stress, creating positive habits for life. Ms Potts recommends meditation to tackle childhood pressure from social media and feeling the need to fit in. “Meditation is a powerful practice for children, rooting them in the present and allowing their real self to connect with them. Calm and relaxation are the obvious benefits but the feeling of being deeply connected to one’s own power is immeasurable.”
Kind social interactions: Inside the yoga class, kids are nurtured by the non-competitive environment and differences are encouraged and celebrated. In this atmosphere, tolerance and kindness flourishes.
Strength and flexibility: Like all forms of exercise, yoga helps keep kids active, building strength and maintaining flexibility. Yoga helps maintain healthy joints and growing bones.
Yoga is for children of all ages. Yoga for kids, especially very young kids, are fun and upbeat. Kids are engaged with singing and stories woven through the yoga movements so it really feels like play while they are still getting all the benefits of the practice.
– Anthony Smith is the Chief Operating Officer of an Australian childcare management company, Guardian Early Learning Group. As a parent himself, Anthony recognises the importance of providing children with physical activities which encourages self-confidence, and positive body awareness in a safe and nurturing environment.