Is there anything cuter than a kid practicing yoga? When my nephew was 3, he took yoga at preschool and my sister sent me the video of him doing a sun salutation. He narrated the entire sequence (“and namaste”), but my favorite moment was when he jumped from downward dog to standing forward bend and said, “and give it a hop!” I died.
Yoga is, of course, not just for adults. While kids may not need it the way we do—they are already super flexible and hopefully not at all stressed—it can still be beneficial, especially as they progress in school and life becomes more challenging. And even if it doesn’t turn them into little meditators, it can be a wonderful source of fun: Who doesn’t want to be a frog or a lion?
Even more remarkable than my nephew’s little sun salutations is how yoga was used in the preschool classroom. The program was full of easy-to-do exercises for large groups in a classroom setting—reaching arms up and down, bending over and stretching legs—but mostly it was yogic breathing. The exercises were meant to calm the kids down and create a sense of quiet and ease in the classroom. One day I observed them and it really worked. The whole classroom went silent. It was a revelation.
This is perhaps the biggest boon to a yoga practice, even for kids: the ability to calm down without the aid of a device or a parent or engaging in a full-on meltdown. But it’s not the only one.
Here are some other benefits of practicing yoga with your kids or enrolling them in a class.
There’s something to focusing on a single task—breathe in, breathe out; balance on one leg—that helps kids develop the ability to concentrate on one activity at a time. That’s a boon in this moment of device overload.
Practicing standing on one leg, or your hands or head, can not only help with body and spatial awareness, but it’s practice for balancing in less…literal ways.
Positive Body Image/Confidence
This is especially good for preteens and teens. Yoga allows you to be with/in your body on your mat without judgement or pressure. You see all the incredible things your amazing body can do! Backbend, twist, forward bend, balance! It can help a lot with the self-love.
Group Activity That’s Not Competitive
No one is being left out! No one is winning or losing. No one is being picked last. Win–win!
Yoga works on gross motor skills and also on much finer motor skills: When you’re balancing on one foot, even a microscopic shift can make you fall over! The practice is a wonderful way to become aware of all the ways tiny shifts in how we hold ourselves and behave generally make a difference in our days.
Strength and Flexibility
Some kids need more musculature, some more flexibility—yoga develops both, and not just on a physical level. A kid who needs more strength can carry those teachings into her life (“I can be stronger and tougher!”). A kid who is tight can learn to loosen up not just in his hamstrings, but off the mat as well (“maybe I can go with the flow a little more…”)
Want to bring yoga to your kids at home? Cosmic Kids and Gaia are wonderful places to start. Watch or download whatever classes your kid likes. (This is a great place to begin, but always best to find a live teacher!)