What is Yoga?
Yoga is not simply the act of doing downward dog and sun salutation poses. Yoga is actually a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. According to the Yoga Alliance, yoga is a system, not of beliefs, but of techniques and guidance for enriched living which can raise the quality of life in a variety of areas including mental clarity, spiritual growth, wellness, stress relief and more.
Ho does Yoga benefit my child?
We know from various research that yoga is very beneficial to adults; reducing stress, improving mental clarity and imparting an overall sense of calm. Research on the benefits of yoga in children is somewhat limited, but definitely on the rise. One of the world’s most prominent yoga researchers, Shirley Telles, concludes that yoga improves children’s physical and mental well-being in her review article, “Effect of Yoga on Mental Health in Children.” (1) Similarly, Harvard Professor Sat Bir Khalsa (17) finds that yoga in schools helps students improve resilience, mood, and self-regulation skills pertaining to emotions and stress. (2). We are seeing many studies starting to measure the effects of a yoga practice on the stress level of children. But it stands to reason that yoga can improve well-being for children just as it does for adults.
How can I get my child to start doing yoga?
So you can see that yoga will have many benefits for your child…but how do you get your child to do it? As with anything a child doesn’t want to do, you have to make it a rewarding experience; one that he or she looks forward to doing each day. We recommend the following three things:
Lead by example!
As with everything else, it’s important to model any sought-after behavior yourself. If you want your child to eat broccoli, then you better be eating it! The same goes for yoga. Start incorporating a yoga practice into your own life – even a very short one – and let your child see you doing it. That’s the first step to getting his or her buy-in. Maybe even create a yoga corner with mats for each of you to make it even more enticing. It won’t be long before he or she is tree-posing right next to you.
Keep it short!
Rather than try to get your child to jump right into a 30-minute yoga routine, start small. Maybe set a goal for five minutes of yoga every morning where you and your child are stretching into poses with some nice deep breathing. What a great way to get centered before moving into the chaos of the day.
Make it fun!
One of the most effective ways to get your child interested in yoga is to find a way to make it fun – even game-like. Downloading an interactive app like Ninja Focus is a fantastic way to make yoga and meditation fun and engaging. Ninja Focus becomes your child’s digital mindfulness coach with rewards for meditating, practicing yoga for a few minutes and identifying emotions. Kids love technology – it makes sense to leverage that love when it comes to mindfulness practices.
There’s no doubt that yoga feeds the mind and the body; creating a sense of peace and focus that carries through the day. Yoga can benefit your child in much the same way it benefits adults. And it’s an easy practice you can do right at home with your child to help him or her feel more balanced, focused and calm.
- Telles S. The Effect of Yoga on Mental Health of Children. In: Nayar U editor. Child and Adolescent Mental Health. New Dehli: Sage Publications (2012). p. 219–27.
- Khalsa SBS. Yoga in schools research: improving mental and emotional health. Invited Presentation at the Second International Conference on Yoga for Health and Social Transformation Haridwar: Patanjali Research Foundation (2013).