Yoga allows children to explore their bodies and imagination in a non-competitive environment. It teaches them to accept and cherish themselves as they are, that everyone’s body is different, and there is no one better or worse. Yoga helps teach children to see the good in others, connect to their innate capabilities and learn tools for resilience. Socio-emotional skills in children are crucial to their development, as it helps them better navigate life’s challenges with more ease. It helps structure their internal landscape to be happy, positive, and optimistic about their life and their abilities.
The yoga asanas (poses) help support and strengthen a child’s growing physical body. Yoga poses are endless. Some poses include “tree” for balance, “boat” for core strength, and “ragdoll” for flexibility. The poses are part of a mind-body-spirit connection.
Using your body to learn can positively impact language acquisition. Through yoga, children are exposed to a variety of nouns, verbs, locatives, prepositions, concepts, attributes, as well as personal pronouns. Many yoga poses are named after real objects or animals which helps improve vocabulary skills. Following simple to multi-step directives during each yoga routine strengthens language comprehension.
The breath is the bridge between yoga and speech. Breathing exercises taught in yoga can enhance awareness of the breath, strengthen and elongate trunk muscles for appropriate alignment, improve control over the respiratory system, and increase oxygen supply needed for proper functioning of the body. All these benefits can encourage speech production, as well as clear and articulate speech. Through simple chants, or mantras, vowel-consonant and consonant-vowel productions can be practiced. When the child is engaged in a motor activity while practicing a new skill, more areas on the brain are activated which will help the child retain the skill.
We live in a busy world full of distractions. Kids are increasingly unable to focus on anything for a decent length of time with so much competing for their attention. Yoga teaches kids to be present, and to concentrate and focus on their breathing. When children are better able to focus, they are better able learn. Research has shown that learning is significantly enhanced when movement is part of the activity. Movement engages the senses and stimulates brain activity. The more the senses are engaged, the more learning occurs and the better the information is retained. Furthermore,coordination of the breath with the yoga poses allows increased blood flow and oxygenation in the body. A well-oxygenated body, and specifically brain, may positively impact overall learning.
Motor planning is the brain’s ability to create, organize, and execute a coordinated and properly timed sequence of movements with the body. It is critical for performing daily activities. Yoga provides opportunities to practice the motor planning, programming, and execution of gross and fine (including speech) movements. Specifically, the repetition of poses, breathing techniques, mudras, and chants permits the brain and body to sequence movements and retain those sequences for future use. When the child is engaged in a motor activity while practicing a new skill, more areas on the brain are activated which will help the child retain the skill.
Yoga and mindfulness go hand in hand. For more information on the benefits of mindfulness for children (and adults) click HERE. Simply speaking, mindfulness teaches us to pay attention to the present moment. It helps us become aware of our surroundings, our bodies, our emotions, and our minds. When children become more mindful, they are better able to regulate themselves and control their emotions. Yoga encourages children to be in a calm yet alert state, which is conducive for optimal learning.
Yoga encourages and promotes imaginative and symbolic play. In yoga, children primarily use their bodies in abstract ways to represent many objects including transportation items and animals, just like in symbolic play. Children are natural born yogis. They will jump at the chance to assume roles of animals, trees, flowers, and warriors. Yoga invites children into a boundless world of wonder and exploration!
Teaching children yoga at an early age is a great way to teach them the value of stretching, meditating, breathing, which helps them to manage stress and relax. They learn how the breath can help them throughout the day, in any situation. The way we breathe profoundly impacts our nervous system, specifically the autonomic nervous system which allows are bodies to feel relaxed. Yoga provides space for the mind to slow down and settle.
Yoga teaches children to learn self-respect and respect for others through the practice of fun and challenging poses, partner poses, group poses, and games. Yoga at an early age fosters cooperation and compassion towards self and others, and lays the foundation for lifelong practice that will continue to deepen.