Readers one of my personal passions is the practice of yoga, and I'm lucky enough to be able to share that with little ones in my classes that I teach for kids aged 5-9 at One Yoga Saratoga. September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and in this post I want to share with you not only the healthy weight benefits of yoga for children, but the overall health benefits little ones can gain from starting a yoga practice young. I've experienced first hand the life changing benefits of yoga in my own life and my own practice and wanted to start my own children out with a love for yoga and all that it has to offer. When I first started practicing yoga there were very few studios that offered kids yoga as well, but more and more, yoga is becoming recognized as an extremely beneficial exercise for kids, not just for adults. University of Michigan pediatrician Dolores Mendelow says yoga, if done properly, is a suitable alternative to tumbling and team sports for getting stressed-out, sedentary children socializing, exercising and building discipline. A preliminary study of pediatric health benefits of yoga, published in 2008, finds motor skills and concentration improvements, on top of better posture and breathing. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, kids need at least 60 minutes of exercise each day to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, according to a study conducted by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which examined the effects of physical activity in children and adolescents, strenuous forms of exercise pose an adverse threat to pubertal and physiologic growth in children. A low-intensity exercise such as yoga works well to ensure kids obtain an adequate amount of exercise without overextending the body. I like to include yoga in my children's exercise routines in addition to their other activities and I've seen the benefits in those activities as well, be it increased balance in snowboarding or more stamina in soccer or riding. Yoga can also help maintain a healthy weight for children. Concentrated moves and poses make yoga seem like an unlikely way to lose weight, but according to a Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center study, people who regularly practice yoga have fewer chances of gaining weight and are more likely to lose weight. Balance is a major reason yoga works well for weight loss; yoga practitioners can be more mindful eaters than most walkers or runners. Yoga can help kids become accustomed to "fullness" signals, which can help them establish healthy eating habits while improving their flexibility, brain function, respiratory and cardiovascular system. Furthermore, yoga allows asthmatic children to maintain a healthy lifestyle without fear of a high-intensity exercise induced asthma attack, says Washington University Physicians Pediatrician, Dr. Leonard Bacharier.
Stress is also a major issues for kids since school is becoming more stressful for many students, and not just college or high school, even elementary school has become stressful. With standardized testing and increased amounts of homework, younger students are experiencing higher stress levels at an alarming rate. Just like adults, children face stressful situations that can strongly affect their mental and physical health. According to the University of Indiana's Sound Medicine, children who practice yoga often experience healthier sleep patterns, which allows them to relax more than children who don't practice yoga. This helps yoga inclined children to keep their stress levels low and remain focused in school. Yoga can also help prevent depression in children as well. According to Psychiatrist and Medical Director of HealthyPlace.com, Harry Croft, MD, nearly two percent of pre-teen school age children suffer from clinical depression and that figure rises to five percent as children reach adolescence. The Journal of Affective Disorders completed a study, which examined the effects of yoga for depression, and discovered that depression and anxiety scores decreased for participants by more than half. Yoga is not only an exercise that proves beneficial for children's physical health, but it demonstrates low-risk, high yield benefits for their mental and overall health as well. For children with ADHD, practicing yoga can be beneficial as well. A study conducted by the Journal of Attention Disorders examined ADHD children and adolescents for 20 one-hour weekly yoga sessions that involved respiratory, postural, relaxation and concentration training. The results found that ADHD children who practice yoga are much more likely to remain focused and are less hyperactive, which in turned reduced the amount of emotional outbursts and oppositional behavior exhibited. I know that in my own classes what the children ask to do the most is "savasana", they absolutely love having the lights dimmed, the music turned low, and the opportunity to just close their eyes and relax, and in every class I'm amazed and excited at how much they love it. I've had students leave my class saying they have more energy and are more relaxed then when they came in. Yoga is also a fun exercise because there is zero competition, I stress the fact that everyone has a different practice and everyone is urged to go at their own pace no matter what the person next to them is doing, invariably each student finds at least one pose that is their "favorite" and that they feel they do best. Besides all of these amazing health benefits we also have a lot of fun. The classes are structured around learning a lot of new poses using music, games, yoga "plays" that they perform and partner exercises and is always finished off with a nice long savasana. So come check it out readers! I teach students aged 4-9 on Thursdays from 4:30-5:30 at the One Yoga Saratoga studio. Plus, the sister studio, Hot Yoga Saratoga also now offers a coordinating Hour of Power adult class in the hot studio which is located in the same building as One Yoga so you can drop your little one off for their yoga class and take an hour long class of your own at the same time! Drop ins are always welcome and it is the perfect way to have your child just try the class out without making a commitment, and you can also purchase class cards if yoga turns out to be a favorite! Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions at all about children's yoga, and I'm looking forward to seeing your little ones in class, namaste!