Yoga has become an increasingly popular form of exercise over the past few years. So much so that on every street corner there seems to be a new yoga studio advertising a variety of classes and programs. Yoga is practiced by people of all ages and skill level. The benefits of yoga, especially for children, are countless. Below are four of the reasons children should practice yoga.
1. Motor Planning
Yoga poses vary in complexity. While your child twists and turns their body to match the pose of the group, they are creating motor plans in their brain for these movement patterns. Creating and refining these plans are what help a child to improve their overall coordination. For children just learning the practice of yoga, try to practice poses where they hold the left and right sides of their body in the same position (down dog, cat, cobra). Once your child is able to efficiently assume these poses, try a few that require them to move the left side of their body differently than their right (triangle, tree, or warrior poses).
2. Strength and Endurance
Once your child has motor planned their way into a yoga pose, encourage them to freeze in that position for a predetermined duration of time without losing their balance or dramatically swaying from side to side. As their body endurance and balance improve, increase the duration they are required to sustain the position. Holding these static poses will help to improve your child’s muscle endurance.
Sustaining poses for predetermined durations can also help to improve your child’s attention. Holding the same pose with a steady and still body for even three seconds may prove to be a challenge. Try to choose a duration of time for your child to hold a pose that challenges their attention but that they also have a chance to be successful in completing. Once they master the ability to hold a pose for a shorter duration of time increase the challenge by a second or two to see if they can maintain a still and focused body.
4. Social Skills
Yoga can be a challenging form of exercise but it can also be a lot of fun. Working together with friends or classmates to practice and refine yoga skills offers vast opportunities for promoting social skills including flexibility of thought to participate group classes, active listening, turn-taking, imitating and replicating group dynamics, and identifying personal role in group activities.
In the coming weeks, especially while it’s still cold outside, look into kid-friendly yoga classes in your community. If you would rather, there are also some excellent videos and yoga cards that you can use in the comfort of your own home. “The Yoga Pretzel Cards” by Tara Guber and Leah Kalish are an excellent tool for practicing yoga with really colorful illustrations for kids to practice with. No matter the way or place you choose to do yoga, remember the cardinal rules for practice: breathe in, breathe out, and namaste.