Photo by Jamie Street
So much of childhood today takes place at a breakneck pace. Hurrying to after school activities, eating on the go, even rushing to bed. When life is that busy, many adults turn to yoga for relaxation, tension release and to get on a path toward a healthier lifestyle. But did you know that preschool yoga can be beneficial too?
“Yoga helps foster healthy social and emotional development in children by providing positive, joyful interaction between kids, and also between children and their adult teachers,” explains Amanda McFadyen, a senior trainer for Rainbow Kids Yoga. It also allows their natural exuberance to shine through in a way that isn’t always available to them once their playing competitive sports or even in gym classes. According to McFadyen, yoga helps kids develop awareness of their breath, their bodies and their emotions—all of which is essential to self-care and wellbeing in adolescence and adulthood. Other benefits include improved concentration, patience and anger management.
But that doesn’t mean you need to force your preschooler to hold tricky postures or meditate in silence. Just the opposite! “Most yoga classes today for children are a blend of movement and music,” McFadyen explains. “They use stories and interaction to pull kids back to their imaginations and away from being dependent on technology for entertainment.” So if you sign up for a Mommy and Me class, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to hop around like a frog or bark like a dog. It’s all part of kids’ yoga’s focus on being in your body and moving it, which is especially important to children ages zero to six whose gross motor skills and vestibular system (which contributes to a sense of balance) are rapidly developing.
And the idea is catching on. The first National Kids Yoga Conference took place in September 2014 in Washington, DC., bringing together yoga teachers, educators, school administrators, studio owners, parents, mental health providers and young people all keen to explore how to keep introducing yoga into kids’ programming and daily lives. Also on the rise: kids yoga birthday parties, yoga camps, mobile kids yoga studios (that can come to your home, school, play group or community center) and kids-only evening yoga parties (where parents drop off then slip away for a night out). Prefer to get started at home? Maybe try a kids yoga DVD.
Above all, getting into yoga at a young age helps kids to key into themselves—to know how their own bodies feel when they’re at ease or stressed, and to learn their own limits. “Kids who do yoga end up with strong self confidence,” explains Michelle Mitchell, Executive Director of YoKid, a non-profit that provides yoga instruction to children and teens from diverse economic backgrounds. “They know how to interact with others, and they know when they’ve personally reached a point where they need to seek out relaxation or help for a physical or mental challenge.”
And who wouldn’t want that for that for their kids?!