I was an active kid. I grew up playing a lot of sports that I adored, but what has stuck with me the most, are the vivid memories I have of my dad taking me to his favorite yoga class, led by a local Swami. I didn't really know what yoga was, but I loved how easy it came to me, how quiet the practice was, and how calm I felt after savasana, or in my kid brain, "glorified nap time." There was a general ease and peace that I didn't have words for at the time, but after years of teaching and studying yoga, I have a much better understanding of what was happening in that room. I was gaining lifelong tools that promoted confidence, self-care, self-inquiry, and a general sense of inner peace.
I often see students come to their mat for the first-time, later in life, due to a suggestion from a medical professional, usually for an injury. It is never too late to pick up your yoga mat, but I often find myself wondering how incredible it would be to be able to share yoga with kids, as a way to instill healthy breathing, movement, and thought patterns for a life of happiness and balance.
Here are the 5 reasons I think all kids should be doing yoga.
- 1. Healthy Breath. Children naturally breathe using their diaphragms. Unfortunately, the stress of adult life shifts us into unhealthy shallow chest breath. Teaching kids the importance of maintaining healthy breath patterns can have a lasting lifelong effect of less stress, healthier bodies, and more alert minds. There is a saying that goes, "Where the mind goes, energy flows." When we are breathing with ease, our bodies naturally relax.
- 2. Healthy Body. A body in motion stays in motion. Teaching kids at a young age how important the balance of movement, flexibility, and strength are can have a lasting impact on their lives. One of the things I love most about yoga is that you see people of all ages and backgrounds practicing. This is a sustainable practice that is gentle on the joints and can be adapted for the rest of one's life.
- 3. Connection and Community. One of the original tenets of yoga is "ahimsa," which means "do no harm to yourself or others." Yoga is a nonviolent practice, that gives a child inner resources and tools to lessen stress, but also encourages connecting with others in a positive, nonviolent way. The word "yoga" means "union" and the practice encourages us to see ourselves in others and seek ways to make the world a better place.
- 4. Self-care. Understanding the importance of taking care of oneself at a young age is crucial for a balanced life. One of my former students takes it upon herself to go to her room when she gets stressed out and meditates until her breath normalizes. She's 12 and already has tools to deal with the stressors in her life. When a child has tools to handle his or her daily stressors or frustrations, empowerment and confidence build.
- 5. Inner Resources. Childhood, especially adolescence, can be a time of shifting identities, with a lot of influence from peers. Yoga has taught me so much about myself and has instilled a sense of inner confidence. As a child, yoga gave me the time and space to explore who I am, what I like, where my limitations are, etc. Because of the reflective nature of yoga, kids have the opportunity to turn inward and learn about themselves, creating more confident, self-assured adults in the long run.
Meghan Foley is a 500 hour Advanced Teacher of Therapeutic Yoga, with extensive training in Yoga Therapy, Yin Yoga, Prenatal Yoga and Power Yoga. She loves sharing yoga with kids, particularly teenagers, because she believes this to be a crucial time in children's lives that can be impacted positively with yoga tools.