As this summer came to an end, I started to explore options for classes for my daughters for the Fall. I was excited to find that a former yoga teacher of mine had started a new business and was now teaching yoga to babies and children. Shockingly, the timing worked out perfectly for both of my girls to take the classes for their age groups (woohoo!). As I have mentioned I’ve practiced yoga on and off for most of my adult life, so I was very excited by the prospect of my girls trying it for the first time.
When we arrived at my four-year-old’s first class, I thought, “how in the world is Katie going to teach all these three to five-year-olds yoga?” As I sat off to the side and watched, I was shocked. The kids each stayed on their own mat and listened attentively as she asked them to “sit criss-cross applesauce, drop their shoulders down their backs , chests up, deep breath in, OM!” I’ve never seen my four-year-old so engrossed and certainly never seen her follow multi-step directions so smoothly. I started to think, “wow, yoga is amazing for kids.”
The class lasted for forty-five minutes and the children basically stayed focused and engaged the entire time. When we got home and for days after, my daughter could not stop talking about yoga and kept asking to come up to my office (where I practice) to “play yoga,” which is how Katie so perfectly coined it in this first class.
As I began to research yoga for children I came across a wonderful article in Parents Magazine that verified everything I had seen. The article talks about the five key areas where children benefit from yoga…
1. It Enhances Physical Flexibility Yoga promotes physical strength because kids learn to use all of their muscles in new ways. Whether a pose is done standing, sitting, or lying down, each one can challenge various muscle groups while helping a child become aware of his body and how it efficiently functions.
2. It Refines Balance and Coordination Balance is a key element of yoga. Balancing poses were created to promote mental and physical poise, as mental clarity and stability emerge from the effort of trying the poses. Even if a child has difficulty standing on one foot, she learns mental and physical balance if she can stay calm when she falls and when she gets up to try again. As children learn to improve their physical balance, they will be filled with a sense of accomplishment. Coordination is also closely tied to balance and promotes overall dexterity. Some yoga teachers and occupational therapists use finger yoga and other specialized techniques to help children with gross and fine motor coordination.
3. It Develops Focus and Concentration The act of practicing poses encourages children to clear their mind and focus on the effort. As a result of this single focus to achieve a particular pose or stay balanced, yoga helps children to focus and concentrate in school and get better grades, several studies note.
4. It Boosts Self-Esteem and Confidence Yoga helps to instill confidence and to bring learning to children on an experiential level, Enneking says. “It helps to provide building blocks for the future. It is our responsibility to develop our children’s sense of wonder and to give them a strong sense of self so they know where they belong in this world and can contribute to making their community a better place.” Yoga teaches them to persevere, be patient, and work toward their goals. A yoga teacher can only offer guidance; it is the child who has to work to succeed. Therefore, when a child masters a pose, it gives him confidence and self-esteem. Enneking often describes kids’ yoga as “prehabilitation,” a proactive action to ward off instability or sickness; yoga also provides tools for practicing compassion, mindfulness, generosity, focus, strength, and flexibility.
5. It Strengthens the Mind-Body Connection Yoga helps kids achieve a sound mind in a sound body by exercising the physical body and calming the mental spirit. “As parents we want our children to act and behave with mindfulness and with compassion, to be brave, to know love and happiness, and to find inner peace,” De Collibus says. “Since the modern world moves very, very fast for children, it’s not long before they feel all kinds of pressure (personal, parental, social) to keep up with everyone around them. Yoga functions as a release valve that alleviates pressure and as a foundation to nurture and develop a resilient and resourceful body, mind, and spirit,” she says.
(SOURCE: Parents Magazine)
I later spoke with the girls’ teacher, Katie Page (Founder and Owner of Wren’s Nest Kids Yoga Studio and Baptiste-Inspired Yoga Instructor, RYT 200) about why she decided to start yoga for kids and babies and here’s what she told me…
“The benefits of kids yoga are endless! From babies to teens, yoga and mindfulness are wonderful tools for child development. Babies are natural born yogis. Baby & Me Yoga is a great way to bring awareness to key aspects of infant development and to give caregivers the opportunity to socialize and build community in a safe space. As children grow, yoga improves strength and flexibility, increases self-confidence and builds a positive self-image in a fun, healthy, noncompetitive environment. Kids Yoga encourages compassion, generosity, respect, teamwork, and builds the foundation for a healthy, happy, and abundant life.”-Katie Page, Wren’s Nest
My one-year-old’s class has not yet started, but I’m looking forward to experiencing baby yoga firsthand and will certainly report back! All in all, I can’t say enough good things about yoga for children and would encourage everyone to find a program in their area ASAP!!