Expert advice on how yoga can improve focus, self-confidence, and relaxation in children
Children, especially school-aged, deal with just as many life distractions and stressors as we do. It’s no surprise, then, that teaching younger populations meditation and yoga has become increasingly popular over the past few years. We’ve seen the benefits of a regular yoga and meditation practice in adults – why not start early? It is well known that learning a new language or subject is easier during childhood because our brains develop connections in the prefrontal cortex at a faster rate during this life stage. The same goes for learning yoga and meditation.
Yoga has many physical and mental benefits for children. It increases their flexibility, strength, and coordination. And, on a deeper level, it builds self-esteem, self-control, and body awareness without the competitive edge that many other extracurricular activities contain. Yoga, as well as meditation, also improves concentration and relaxation, both important life long skills. A recent article (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/05/10/the-mindful-child/?_r=0) in the New York Times cited multiple research studies that have shown proven benefits of yoga and meditation programs for school-aged children, including “improvements in executive functions like cognitive control, working memory, cognitive flexibility – and better math grades.”
Kids yoga tends to take a more playful approach – kids meow while taking “cat pose” and hiss in “cobra pose.” This keeps it exciting and addresses their shorter attention spans. Meditation can be taught to children by simplifying the explanation - for example, asking them to focus on a favorite color or favorite place for a specific length of time.
There are kid specific yoga and meditation trainings, so look for a certified kids yoga teacher or program near you. Karma Kids Yoga (www.karmakidsyoga.com) and Yogi Beans (www.yogibeans.com) are two studios in NYC that offer classes and workshops geared specifically towards children.
Schools are also starting to include yoga and meditation programs throughout the regular school day. The School Yoga Project (http://littlefloweryoga.com/programs/the-school-yoga-project) , Yoga in Schools (http://yogainschools.org), and Bent on Learning (http://bentonlearning.org/) are some examples of programs that have already been implemented if you are looking for more information.
Find simple ways to incorporate yoga and meditation practices into your child’s day and I promise you will witness the many benefits these practices can bring to one’s life.
About the author: Laura Camilleri is a registered yoga teacher and certified health coach in NYC. Her background in social work, psychology, and education influence her teaching and counseling style. She views wellness from a holistic perspective-her aim is to help you feel nourished from the inside out and create a connection between all parts of the self-body, mind, heart and soul. Please visit camilleriwellness.com for additional information about Laura's teaching schedule, programs, and monthly blog posts.