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Child & Teen Health
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Yoga is becoming increasingly popular among American children. A national survey found that 3% of U.S. children (1.7 million) did yoga as of 2012 — that’s 400,000 more children than in 2007.
Yoga and mindfulness have been shown to improve both physical and mental health in school-age children (ages 6 to 12). Yoga improves balance, strength, endurance, and aerobic capacity in children. Yoga and mindfulness offer psychological benefits for children as well. A growing body of research has already shown that yoga can improve focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance, and classroom behavior, and can even reduce anxiety and stress in children.
Emerging research studies also suggest that yoga can help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by improving the core symptoms of ADHD, including inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It can also boost school performance in children with ADHD. A growing number of schools now integrate yoga and mindfulness into physical education programs or classroom curriculums, and many yoga studios offer classes for school-age children. Yoga can be playful and interactive for parents and children at home, as well.
Jessica Mei Gershen, a certified yoga instructor who teaches yoga to children at Brooklyn Yoga Project and founder of Yoga For All Needs, recommends making yoga playful and fun for kids, whether in the classroom or at home. In her yoga classes, Gershen weaves in fun games and stories with positive themes like compassion, gratitude, and strength.
“Yoga is really effective because it’s so tangible. Learning physical postures builds confidence and strength as well as the mind-body connection,” Gershen says. She also has found that the effects of yoga go beyond physical fitness and also allow kids to build confidence and awareness beyond the classroom. “Through yoga, kids start to realize that they are strong and then are able to take that strength, confidence, acceptance, and compassion out into the world,” notes Gershen.
Here are some fun yoga exercises and games for kids. If you are a parent familiar with yoga, you can try these at home with your family.
More yoga poses for kids, as well as some other resources, can be found here.
Simple yoga breath exercise
Flying bird breath
Mirror, mirror. This game is a good warm-up exercise to increase focus.
One person is selected as the Yogi. The other players must do the yoga poses that the Yogi tells them to do if the instruction starts with “Yogi says.” If the Yogi doesn’t use “Yogi says,” then players do not do the pose. Keep changing the person who is Yogi, so that everyone gets a turn.
Red light, green light yoga
One person is chosen as the Stoplight. He or she stands at the front of the room. The other players are the “cars,” and they start at the opposite wall. The Stoplight starts the game by calling “Green light!” The other players then use yoga poses to move forward. When the Stoplight calls “Red light!,” each player needs to be in a yoga pose and remain still. Everyone takes a turn being the Stoplight.
Meditation can be short and simple, and does not have to involve complex yoga poses or staying still in a quiet, dark room. One parent, who is also a physician, describes playing a “meditation game” with her children before bedtime, when she turns off electronic devices and reflects on the day with her children, using questions like, “What are you grateful for today?”
Here are a few simple meditations for children, which can be done for as little as 30 seconds or for several minutes.
Mindful awareness meditation
Loving kindness meditation
Marlynn Wei, MD, JD, Contributing Editor
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Incredible, Marlynn! Yoga Foster has a ton of resources for school teachers – and free for Title 1 schools yogafoster.org
Nice share..Liked It!
Though millions of children are practicing yoga at school, at home and in yoga studios around the world, this is the exercise which makes the body more flexible.
Earlier i use to be very lethargic when told to do yoga exercises but thankfully I’ve learned a few things since then but I understand more about child development, and positive communication too.
And I am more thankfull to you guys who keep sharing these blogs which encourages me alot and force me to do yoga everyday.
While you should establish a certain amount of structure and routine. Nourish imagination, ask for students and then genuinely listen to what they have to say.
Such a wonderful piece. As a Holistic Medical Doctor, i recommend this exercise to everyone to improve his or her health.
A WONDERFUL piece on integrating Yoga into your child’s life as a fun to enhance both mental and physical development! Definitely sharing this!
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Child & Teen Health
Child & Teen Health
Child & Teen Health
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