by Alexis Birner

Why Yoga Matters for Kids

by Alexis Birner

Yoga is a series of stretches, exercises, and postures – that bring together the mind and body for improved physical and mental well-being. With the added bonus of enriching focus and clarity, yoga has become very popular for adult across North America.

However, did you know that Yoga is incredibly healthy for kids? One of the reasons at Pear Tree, we’ve collaborated with Carolyn Lundie of YogaButtons, bringing the benefits of yoga to our students.

Why exactly does it matter? Here are 7 of the many advantages of yoga for kids:

Quieting the Monkey Mind

Yoga is a fantastic way for children to learn to quiet their mind and focus on the present moment. Their thoughts are often going in a thousand different directions at a thousand miles per hour, but yoga demands that they slow down and pay attention to the here and now. We could all benefit from getting our mind monkeys to sit still. Yoga teaches concentration.

An Understanding of their Bodies

While moving through the stretches and postures, children will naturally develop a better understanding of how their bodies move, the interconnection between body parts, and how everything works in partnership to complete various actions, movements, and exercises. Yoga lets them zero in on how to properly and safely use their body.

The Importance of Breath

A fundamental part of yoga is breathing and an appreciation for the breath. Depending on the method used, breathing can both energize and calm. It can refresh, rejuvenate, and invigorate the body in the middle of a hectic school day. And yoga focuses on breath as much as it does on the body. Children will learn proper breathing technique, how to connect to their breath, and how to use that skill to help them in their day-to-day lives.

Mental and Physical Balance

Obviously, many of the asanas – such as the tree pose – require balance. Practicing those postures allows all children to improve their balance over time, and better balance leads to greater coordination, posture, and efficiency of movement.

But it goes behind that. As adults, we hear often about the importance of work-life balance. Kids are no different. Their lives can be just as frenzied. Yoga strips away the mental noise, calming the mind and connecting it to the body and breath. That’s a tool that everyone could use.

Increased Flexibility and Strength

The postures and exercises the children learn lead to improved flexibility and strength. They’re using muscles and body parts in new ways, and even though it may seem low impact and gentle, yoga does in fact develop strength. It’s not bodybuilding, but it will make them stronger.

A flexible and strong body is less susceptible to injury and allows children to be children…playing, jumping, tumbling, running, climbing, and just having fun.

More Confidence and Higher Self-esteem

One of the nicest things about yoga – for adults and children alike – is that virtually everyone can do it. Unlike traditional sports, yoga does not require any innate athletic ability, so all kids can learn it, succeed, and get better over continued practice. It boosts confidence and esteem for children that might otherwise feel uncoordinated or clumsy.

Connection to the Natural World

Through an awareness of their environment and assuming the characteristics of the animals represented in the postures, yoga brings a sense of connection to the natural world not found in other physical activities.

We could go on: it’s low impact (so the risk of injury is quite low), it’s non-competitive in a world fraught with competitiveness, it teaches children to listen to their bodies, they can practice by themselves virtually anywhere, it brings a sense of inner peace, and it sets a healthy lifestyle habit for life.

Suffice to say, yoga provides a myriad of benefits. For the body and the mind. It includes breathing techniques, physical postures, and behaviour guidelines that children can apply anytime.

Why does yoga matter beyond all that? The kids love it, and the smiles, laughter, and bright faces during and after their yoga lessons are reason enough for Pear Tree to continue to offer it as part of our enhanced physical education program (one of the four cornerstones that make us so unique in the Lower Mainland).