Yoga has increased in popularity in recent years, with novelty yoga classes such as goat yoga or puppy yoga popping up around the country.
While many think of yoga as an adult activity, the meditative practice can offer children numerous health and mental benefits.
A 2016 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) even recommends yoga as a safe and potentially effective therapy for children coping with emotional, mental, physical and behavioral health conditions. The AAP study found that yoga equips children with skills to help with stress management, as well as improves self-esteem, classroom behaviors, concentration, and emotional balance.
Danielle Pape, a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor for Lake Health, sees the benefits of yoga for children first-hand.
“I think all children can benefit from yoga,” she says. “Yoga is great for any kid; for your mind, your body and your spirit. I have kids (8-year-olds) who are so good at yoga, you would be surprised. But, I also have kids that can’t focus and who are all over their mats. I still think that coming to the class one time a week benefits them.”
Yoga also can have cross-training benefits for children in sports.
“More flexibility equals more range of motion; more balance will help better core strength; more body awareness means they will be more coachable,” Pape shares.
However, Pape is quick to note that a child doesn’t have to be athletically inclined to benefit from yoga.
“Yoga can help any child feel better about themselves,” she says. Whether they’re in sports, because it helps with all those things, or whether they’re not in sports.”
Wondering how soon to start yoga with your child? Yoga classes exist for children as young as toddlers. Starting yoga for toddlers, even if it’s just occasional poses, can have its benefits.
“I have a 4-year-old and we started when he was age 2, rolling around the floor, doing yoga pose downward facing-dog,” Pape says. “He enjoys it, but we don’t do a full class. His attention span isn’t really there. I really feel like it helps increase their balance.”
Danielle Pape, a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor for Lake Health, shares aspects of how yoga can help kids:
- Increased ability to focus
- Stress relief (by teaching breathing control and being present)
- Body awareness
- Confidence building
- Increased flexibility, strength and balance
Listen to Your Body
As with any sport or physical activity, there can be concern for injury.
Pape advises all her students to go at their own pace, as everyone grows at different rates. She also emphasizes that it’s important for them to listen to their bodies.
“I just tell everyone that it’s their own practice. You come in and do what you can. Don’t look at what your neighbor is doing. You do what you can. If you need a break, you go into child’s pose and take a break. Classes are structured, but you still need to listen to your body.”