How Yoga Benefits Kids

By Mary Bolster

How yoga benefits kidsYoga can help your child get stronger and more limber, but the emotional rewards of calmness and compassion may be even more valuable. Children are often naturally flexible, which is why many yoga poses come easily to them, but yoga also builds strength and better body awareness, says Lauren Toolin, a yoga teacher and therapeutic yoga instructor, based in Massachusetts, who used to teach classes to children.

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While you’re noticing the external changes, yoga is quietly improving your child’s circulation and respiration and digestive and immune systems, says Scott Blossom, a yoga instructor in the San Francisco Bay Area who taught children years ago in New York City.

How Lions Calm Down

And though yoga may not turn your child into a peace-loving Buddha in a single class,  over time you may notice some subtle emotional shifts. She may be more accepting of herself, less reactive — and more able to concentrate, says Toolin. “Yoga builds present-moment awareness,” she says. The game playing and partner work also teaches kids to be compassionate and gentle with other kids. “In children’s yoga, there’s a lot of cheering other kids on,” says Toolin.

In Yogi Beans classes, a child-centered studio in New York City, founded and co-owned by Lauren Chaitoff, children are taught Lion’s Breath, an exercise that teaches them how breathing can change the way they feel. Here are the child-friendly instructions:

1. Take a deep inhale

2. Stick out your tongue

3. On the exhale, release a deep roar

After a few roars, the students are asked to do it again but without having the lion make a sound. They learn that rather than yell or scream, they can take a deep lion’s breath, says Chaitoff, who suggest parents try this technique instead of a “time out” to help their child calm down.

RELATED: 5 Bedtime Yoga Routines for Kids

For Blossom, yoga allows children to experience both success and failure without judgment. “Yoga is very open-ended,” he says. “Nothing is right or wrong. Children are given permission to feel things and there’s no shame around those feelings. A yoga class gives kids the space to go through experiences. Yoga guides them without squelching them.”

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Health writer and editor Mary Bolster, the former Executive Editor of Yoga Journal, lives in Connecticut.

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