Just Breathe

One of the greatest things that we can do for children is encourage them to have a healthy appreciation of their minds, bodies and spirits. What better way to instill this positive message into their hearts than to introduce them to exercise that is fun, calming and noncompetitive? 

Promoting a state of overall wellness that can last a lifetime, kid’s yoga is an unconventional extracurricular activity that enhances physical strength, balance, flexibility and body awareness as much as it improves focus and concentration.

“One of the biggest problems facing adolescents in our culture today is obesity, so any kind of exercise you can get a child involved in is good exercise,” says Dr. William James, a primary care physician who focuses on pediatrics at St. John Medical Center.

“There are a lot of studies showing that children who are overweight or obese often leads to adolescents who are overweight, leading to adults who are ultimately in the same situation. Setting up your mind and body to take care of yourself early on establishes good habits that you’ll tend to follow for the rest of your life.”

For children who are involved in sports and other physical activities, the strengthening and flexibility benefits acquired through a regular yoga practice can work as a helpful preventative tool.

“Improved flexibility and strength is a type of conditioning that can help to prevent injuries when used in coordination with other activities, such as sports and other things of that nature,” James adds.

Through kid’s yoga, children have the opportunity to reap many of the additional benefits that adults enjoy, such as outlets for relaxation and breathing techniques used to combat stress.

With its synchronization of movement, stretching, mindful breathing and encouragement of inner connection, yoga nurtures a youthful energy that almost derives from childhood itself.

“Children are natural yoginis. They are a lot better at the breathing than we are. When we’re born, we breathe through our entire bodies; then, as we grow into adulthood, we gradually lose touch with that ability, but we don’t have to,” explains Lauren Sullivan, a certified kid’s yoga instructor at Yoga at Tiffany’s in Oklahoma City.

“Yoga also does wonders to improve posture and encourage increased awareness of their bodies, because they learn to be more aware of the ways that they move and the effects of the movement. I think a lot of people have a preconceived idea of what yoga is – that you just sit there and close your eyes – but there is actually lot of physical activity and movement involved.”

The age range for kid’s yoga classes varies, with classes beginning at age 3, so classes can be every bit as fun and playful as they are instructional.

Particularly at the testing age, when kids spend the lion’s share of their days sitting behind desks, yoga has been proven to be an excellent way to counter the pressures of their day-to-day lives.

Learning how to overcome mental distraction and agitation to “let go” and simply rest, as many adults have learned, however, is not an easy thing that comes naturally at any age.

“Kids have stress – a lot more than we think. If you teach children how to go back to a safe and calming place with their breathing, it makes any sort of stressor in their lives much easier to deal with,” Sullivan says.

“Developing this helps them to concentrate on a happy place or a happy thought, which aids in relieving stress in school, on the playground and any other place in their lives.”