Can doing yoga ten minutes a day energize your child and enhance their ability to learn? According to one study, published in The Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research, the answer is yes.
Researchers evaluated the mental health benefits of yoga on middle school students. Students were randomly assigned to either a regular gym class or to a “Yoga Ed” group that had 11 weeks of yoga sessions. The adolescents that were part of the yoga group reported positive mood and attitude changes, increased energy and an improved ability to relax.
Yoga, a form of mediation rooted in Hinduism, focuses on breathing approaches and moving the body into specific positions. In adults, long-term benefits include greater flexibility and strength, improved health and even weight loss.
By introducing yoga to kids, the study found they were not only strengthening their muscles, but strengthening their mind as well.
“Physical activity for children is something which is essential in this day and age of technology. Not only is physical activity important for the body, it is also linked to positive self-image, socialization – encouraging teamwork and problem solving- mental stimulation and overall healthy lifestyles,” says Kristen Turner, the site lead at Advocate Lutheran General Fitness Center.
So, should yoga be taught in schools?
- Breathing: it’s essential for life and helps us manage our stress
- Confidence: yoga focuses on individual strength; there is no competition between children
- Mindfulness: engages the imagination and stimulates senses
- Mobility: prevents prolonged sitting and gives students a chance to refresh their bodies
Dr. Cathy Joyce, a new adolescent medicine physician at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge adds, “the benefits of yoga for children are endless: (1) improvement in self-confidence, social confidence with teachers, communications with peers, improvement in attention; (2) reduction in depression and anxiety scores in children and adolescents; (3) helps in decreasing eating disorder symptoms, and improvement in medical disorders—such as asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and diabetes.”
Some examples of “child-friendly” poses include:
- Happy hopping tree balance: children balance on one leg with the opposite foot pressed above or below the knee of the balancing leg; Reach the arms out like branches and take three small hops
- Dog at fire hydrant: children will get on hands and knees and straighten limbs to make an “A” shape in the air; Lift one leg in the air for ten seconds and then switch legs
- Butterfly flight visualization: children will sit on the floor with the soles of their feet together forming a butterfly wing shape; once in position, close the eyes and visualize yourself flapping your wings
- Magic carpet mediating: children lay on mats or blankets with eyes closed. Visualize that they are flying on a magic carpet and can choose their destination