June is Family Health & Fitness Month, and we are encouraging families to engage in kid-friendly activities that cultivate healthy, active lifestyles as children grow. Yoga is often overlooked as a kid-friendly activity, but it has several benefits for kids and teens.
Yoga is an ancient practice from India, dating back more than 3,000 years. The word “yoga” literally means “to yoke” the mind, body and spirit. While there are many different types of yoga, practices typically focus on physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation (dyana).
Yoga provides the following benefits to people of all ages.
- Improves flexibility, strength and stamina
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Improves sleep and mental clarity
- Connects spirituality and self
Benefits of yoga for young kids
For young children, yoga is more than just a physical activity. A regular yoga practice can help children develop skills that will help them through adolescence and later in life.
Stress management – Yoga can help kids learn how to manage stress or anxiety, in addition to general emotional regulation. We often don’t think about stress management with young children, but developing this skill early can help kids as they experience stress at school, in social settings or at home.
Self esteem and body image – Because yoga is a practice, there isn’t pressure to be perfect. This allows kids to make mistakes and celebrate small improvements in their practice. This regular practice and improvement can boost self esteem and build a positive body image in young children.
Enhances concentration and memory – With increased screen time in young kids, developing the ability to focus and memorize requires practice. Yoga works on memorization skills and focus which can translate into better concentration, memory and academic performance.
Holistic wellness – Kids can be physically active in a variety of fun and engaging ways, either by free play, recreational sports or group classes. All of these activities are great for young kids. Yoga can be particularly beneficial because there is a holistic focus on balance, coordination, strength and flexibility.
Benefits of yoga for teenagers
As children get older, their emotional and physical abilities and needs change. Yoga can be beneficial for teenagers in a variety of ways to help them mentally, emotionally and physically.
Physical health – There is so much pressure on teenagers to look a certain way. Yoga helps teenagers improve their physical fitness without focusing on their appearance. Plus, yoga offers incredible benefits to teenagers as they grow, including improved posture and spine health, flexibility, balance, strength and coordination.
Stress management – Teenagers balance a lot, from coping with exams and college admissions to juggling extracurriculars and homework, plus navigating social situations. Yoga can help teenagers carve out time for themselves, while developing powerful coping mechanisms to deal with stress and anxiety.
Better focus – Teenage brains aren’t designed to sit in a classroom for eight hours every day. Add in hormones, sports, activities, friends and social media, and it’s easy to see why it can be hard for teenagers to focus. Yoga can help teens to center their focus, improve their attention span and be able to concentrate better throughout the day.
Confidence – Puberty and peer pressure can take their toll on teens’ confidence, which is why so many teenagers struggle with positive self image. Yoga can give teenagers a regular practice of self love, to help build confidence and a positive self image around their identities and bodies. Yoga practices that focus on opening the third chakra, or solar plexus, are particularly beneficial for building confidence, self esteem, ambition and setting personal boundaries.
Local and online yoga classes for kids and teens
If your kids or teens are interested in yoga, here are a few online and local resources to help your kids find the right yoga class for their age and ability level.
Yoga with Adriene – Adriene Mishler is a popular yoga instructor on YouTube, offering a wide variety of yoga classes you can access for free from the comfort of your own home, including a special class just for teens.
This Land Yoga – Located in Oklahoma City’s Paseo district, This Land Yoga offers a wide variety of classes to bring yoga to people of all ages and abilities. They offer Teen Yoga and Parent & Toddler Yoga designed for younger age groups.
YMCA Kids Yoga – The Mitch Park YMCA location offers Kids Yoga which introduces flowing sequences, balance poses and imaginative relaxation tools for children.
Lifetime Fitness Kid’s Yoga – Oklahoma City’s Lifetime Fitness offers a wide selection of children’s classes, including yoga for ages three to 11 years. The class uses games, music and storytelling to increase balance, strength and concentration.
For more healthy living tips for you and your family, visit the INTEGRIS Health For You blog.