As parents, we’re constantly looking for the best way to raise our children. From reading books and showing affection to making sure they have healthy diets and fun ways to exercise, there are lots to keep us busy.
One of the latest parenting trends is yoga for children. There are lots of mental and physical benefits to this practice, no matter what age you are — and there are plenty of reasons for parents to join in with their children.
Find out more about the many benefits of yoga for children and what yoga teaches them.
What is yoga for children?
Yoga is an activity that mixes physical benefits with mental ones. Participants hold poses and stretches that strengthen their muscles, practise breathing techniques, build an understanding of their body, improve concentration and more.
While some of the spiritual and mental aspects of yoga might not be suitable for younger children, yoga benefits children in many ways (like improved flexibility and self-esteem) and there’s a lot that can be taken from the activity.
Benefits of yoga in childcare
As something that’s been shown to benefit children, it makes sense to implement yoga sessions in childcare centres.
Some of the key benefits of yoga classes in childcare include:
- Balance and coordination
- Focus and concentration
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Regulates emotions
Because of the younger age and shorter attention spans of toddlers and young children, it’s a good idea to tailor the yoga class to their abilities. Start by introducing some of the easiest poses and shorten how long you hold each one. You can introduce yoga in games to encourage participation, get educators to demonstrate poses and encourage children to use the correct form.
Balance and coordination
Young children are still learning how to best use their bodies and yoga is a great way to develop gross motor skills and improve physical fitness.
A big part of yoga is balance and coordination, two skills that will have huge pay-offs for children. By doing the poses, children will strengthen core muscles that will help improve their physical postures and their overall health. Not only will this improve future yoga sessions, but it will have transferrable skills for other activities.
Children gain other physical benefits from yoga too, like a reduced chance of injury and developing body awareness as they begin balancing poses that focus on parts of the body that they might not usually be aware of.
Focus and concentration
Young children have a notoriously flighty attention span and that’s one of the key things they need to improve before starting primary school. By building concentration, they’ll likely see amazing benefits in their academic performance.
Organised activities like yoga are a great way to build focus and concentration. By watching an educator lead a class, children get into the practice of focusing their attention on an adult.
Following instructions and practising yoga poses will help build their concentration levels too. It might not be an immediate improvement, but over time you’ll notice that the children who regularly take part in classes will pay more and more attention to what they’re doing.
Children are generally more flexible than adults, so starting yoga young can help them achieve more difficult yoga poses later on in life.
Because of the stretching involved in yoga, children will develop more flexible muscles and joints. This will help them with other sports and activities, building up their physical strength and range of movements.
Again, increased flexibility isn’t an immediate benefit, but the children who take part in regular practice will see benefits over time.
Kids yoga has an easy introductory path, meaning most children will understand and be able to follow along with educators. The fact that they can do this so quickly is great for developing their self-confidence and self-esteem in a way that other sports might not.
The fact that yoga is a non-competitive activity is also beneficial for self-confidence. While children can lose in other sports regardless of how well they do, which can impact self-confidence negatively, they don’t have this problem with yoga.
As children continue with yoga, they’ll learn the moves and poses, giving them mental clarity as they become more familiar and adapt with what they’re meant to be doing.
Decreases stress and anxiety
Being a child can be incredibly stressful. There are so many unfamiliar people and places that it can all become a bit overwhelming. Other changes like starting school, the birth of a younger sibling or moving home can also impact their lives. Learning how to manage stress in these situations is vital.
Breathing exercises are a big part of yoga and these are fantastic for relaxation. When your child comes into a stressful or anxious environment, being able to fall back on these breathing exercises can help them.
Having parents and educators involved in a child’s yoga practice can be beneficial for this reason too.
Young children often find it hard to regulate their emotions. Small setbacks or failing to get what they want can often lead to meltdowns and tantrums. Thankfully, yoga can help build emotional intelligence and help children to become more resilient.
One way yoga helps children regulate emotions is through focus. By looking inwards, concentrating on holding a pose or noticing their breathing, children learn to filter out external distractions and annoyances. Learning to do this is a great step to being able to regulate emotions.
Mindfulness is the practice of being in the moment and focusing on what’s happening inside you and near you. Outside of yoga and meditation, this is a great way to be in the moment and truly enjoy what’s happening in your life.
Many people go through life looking forward to the next thing. Whether it’s a birthday, a holiday or the next life stage, they forget to appreciate the present moment.
By introducing yoga in early childhood, they’ll be better set up to focus on what’s happening now so they can more fully enjoy life.
How childcare can implement yoga
Yoga benefits children in all manners of ways, and it also helps those around them — parents, siblings, friends, educators and teachers.
Not sure how to get started? A few of the key ways to implement yoga in childcare are:
- Technology and other classroom resources
- Start simple
- Use stories or games
By implementing yoga in childcare, educators will see an increase in many favourable qualities, from focus and concentration to emotional regulation and improved self-confidence. This will lead to happier children and a more enjoyable day for all.
Technology and other classroom resources
Yoga instruction is not a key part of an educator’s training so not every early childhood educator will be confident to lead a class.
Thankfully, there are lots of resources available to help. By looking online, you’ll be able to find videos of professionals to show to your class on electronic devices. By watching ahead of time and practising the poses, you can demonstrate the movements to children and help them get in the right positions.
If you have the budget, bringing in a certified yoga instructor is another possibility.
There are certain poses in yoga that even practising adults find hard to pull off. To begin with, children’s yoga should only have the easiest poses. This will help them become confident with the activity and be more engaged.
Another way to simplify yoga and keep it engaging is to keep sessions short. This means just a few seconds holding poses and just a small number of stretches to include. Revisiting these stretches will help children get to grips with yoga and will give them the confidence to join in when you start a new session.
Use stories or games
A standard call and response yoga session may be effective for adults, but it may not create huge engagement with children. Kids learn best through stories or games and adding them into your sessions may be more effective.
For stories, think of a few poses that can be used in a certain theme. For instance, if you’re telling a story about a jungle, think of poses that can look like certain animals. As the story progresses, you can introduce these poses and get children to act out the story. You can use this to make yoga so much fun for all involved.
There are a variety of ways to create yoga games. One is to have a few image cards with different poses (or a representation of the pose) that you pull at random. See how quickly your children can get into the right pose, with help from the educators in the room.
Finding the right childcare
Childcare that runs yoga sessions is doing a lot of things right. They’re doing the best for their children; they’re coming up with innovative ways to bring beneficial activities into their centres and they’re constantly innovating.
While yoga isn’t a requirement for those benefits, it is one. When you’re finding out about different childcare options in your area, find out what they do to make sure the children are developing, improving and picking up good habits.