In today’s hurried, stressed-out culture, we can face modern challenges for raising, happy, healthy kids. Parents and children alike are overstimulated by technology, weighed down by super-sized processed foods, and mentally scattered by the constant flow of information.
Pulled taut between my career, two young children and all of the above, I wasn’t far into motherhood before my parenting stamina fell short and my resources depleted. I wandered and waded through parenting philosophies in the hopes of finding firm footing, but felt overwhelmed by the quantity of advice.
Ultimately, it wasn’t a newly minted parenting technique, but rather my training in an ancient practice that grounded my parenting style and pointed me to the simplest, most comprehensive tool for nurturing happier, healthier kids: yoga. Here’s why:
1. Yoga affects the big picture efficiently.
Yoga mirrors the parent in that it has a foundation in unconditional love and facilitating connection. It recognizes that you can’t tease the part away from the whole, and that nurturing an individual means simultaneously supporting and guiding her physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. The exercises found in yoga are so seamless that whenever you utilize them to focus on one component of a child’s development and health, it will also nurture all other aspects of the child in the process.
2. Yoga is the work of play.
Children have so much fun in yoga; they don’t mind that they’re also doing an incredible amount of mind-body work and life skill learning. A child’s work is play, which research has long shown is a positive platform for social and cognitive learning. In kids’ yoga, life education is front loaded in an environment safe for exploration, and is presented within games, music and movement. Yoga’s ability to engage the child playfully while offering beneficial life lessons whets their appetite for learning and fosters a love for healthy living.
3. Yoga encourages happier, more confident living.
Yoga teaches self-acceptance, self-compassion, and non-judgment in a competition-free environment. Through these teachings, yoga helps children acknowledge and accept their authenticity and individuality, and make positive changes when need be. Without competition, the child is free to discover accomplishment within the effort of the practice as opposed to the outcome.
Yoga also encourages kids to find humor and achievement within the struggle or misstep of a pose. In life, this translates into cultivating happiness and confidence from the inside out, no matter the external factors. Yoga demonstrates that emotional resiliency, confidence and happiness don’t arise from avoiding difficulty altogether, but from finding ways to acknowledge and face our struggles in a healthy way.
4. Yoga teaches stress management and physical fitness.
Yoga allows children to feel empowered in their own bodies and take control of their health in ways that decrease stress and maximize their physical functioning. For kids, this kind of education can allow them to be solely capable of using breath and meditation to activate the relaxation response of their parasympathetic nervous system; it can be a useful coping strategy for stress and anxiety for better mental health through life.
The physical benefits of yoga are well known. The integrative movement and poses in a yoga class allow children to build strength, coordination, balance and body awareness to literally move through life with better ease and posture. Such practice is excellent prevention and management of physical illness, injury and disease.
5. Yoga develops social, emotional and executive skill savvy.
Yoga can socially, emotionally and cognitively benefit the typically developing child, as well as the child with difficulties in sensory processing, attention deficits or autism spectrum disorders. Yoga is an inclusive and natural exercise for integrating sensory processing, which helps a developing brain to better organize sensory information received by the nervous system. In this aspect, yoga offers opportunities to train the brain to harmoniously receive sensory information and form emotional self-regulation, appropriate behavioral responses and good decision-making skills. Yoga group classes provide peer instruction for emotional intelligence, as well as experiential lessons on effective social communication strategies. Research shows such training can result in positive behavior and improved test scores.
Yoga provides a substantial offering of wisdom from the modern village it takes to raise a child, and it honors the complexity and the integration of the individual with its teachings. I already offer life lessons to my daughters, but yoga furthers and expands the understanding, deepening the imprint while also creating a mindful, compassionate path for nurturing happy and healthy individuals.
Parenting isn’t necessarily easy for anyone, and neither is childhood. Yoga for kids offers ease for us all amidst the jangling overload of modern life and generously grants peace for this precious life journey.