Yoga & Mindfulness Practices For Our Youth
Michele Guess, ERYT, YACEP, PharmD – January 15, 2019
Today’s students face tremendous pressure to achieve within a world that is often overwhelming. The tools of yoga and mindfulness offer proven methods of developing the inner resilience needed to navigate physical, mental and emotional stress. Bringing these practices to our children is a simple way to support making your students’ lives healthier,
and can increase their capacity to learn effectively, manage challenging emotions, self regulate behavior, and achieve personal and academic success. Kula Yoga Kids offers a unique program combining yoga and mindfulness practices in a straightforward and intentional way. Our approach incorporates five key elements in each session: Connect, Breathe, Move, Focus and Relax. Within these elements students are taught fundamental life
skills that are immediately available for daily use.
Here are just some of the benefits of yoga and mindfulness practices in kids:
• Improved overall health
• Increased strength and flexibility
• Improved body image
• Better sleep quality
• Improved executive function
• Improved focus and attention
• Increased engagement
• Greater sensory integration
• Improved emotional regulation
• Greater self confidence
• Increased resilience
• Decreased stress and anxiety
• Greater compassion and empathy
• Improved communication
• Increased leadership skills
• Reduced bullying
• Greater sense of community
When asana was developed by the ancient yogis, they used the inspiration of nature and animals to relate all poses to the human body. We use these same tools to day to let kids better relate to their inner selves as well as the world around them. For example, when using the asana of Volcano, (Urdhva Hastasana), we can teach a child how to deal with feelings like anger in a way that is not harmful to any kids around them by “exploding” their arms up into the air while letting out a scream/“eruption”. Kids love to move an play so when we couple this with some asana instruction, they get to experience their bodies in all different positions while breathing and developing an awareness of where they are in their world physically, as well as mentally and emotionally. They can even pretend to take on all the qualities of the asana they are making thereby developing empathy for nature, animals, and people around them.
Balance postures like tree pose (Vrikshasana) are beneficial to kids not only for their normal physical growth and development of strength, flexibility, and body awareness but also using it as a tool to discover if there is balance in their lives, such as between active and quiet times. It also puts them in touch with nature without even going outside as they imagine the roots of the tree grounding down through the earth while reaching their branches up toward the sun, maintaining their strength and balance while being flexible enough to sway in the wind.
Kids yoga includes mindfulness practices both through the actual asana practice as well as other activities such as pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation. Have you ever gotten so wound up and stressed that you couldn’t think straight and were in severe reaction to whatever the stessor was? A few deep breaths later and all is well again. Just like adults, kids need these breathing techniques too. Brahmari breathing (bee breath) is a great example of how we can use our own breath to calm us and find our center. This is a technique of covering the ears while making a buzzing noise through our teeth. This enables the child to block out any outside stimulus while sending a soothing vibration throughout the body to calm their nervous system. This is extremely empowering to a child that may feel he/she has no control over their current situation.
Meditation is that process of turning inward, finding our center and balance through breath and focus. Giving children a guided meditation to help them relax the thoughts while letting them enjoy a story or adventure is a great way they can “reset” their brains anytime during the day. You can make up a meditation to tell them or even play one directly from an app on your smartphone. It can be 5 minutes or 50, and the results are similar as it provides an invitation to turn inward and explore the imagination while simultaneously relaxing the repetitive thoughts. As the thoughts settle, peace, relaxation, and balance return.
Yoga, in the forms of asana (postures), breath (pranayama), and meditation (dhyana), give kids the tools they need to navigate through this ever changing, fast paced world. The three together create a wholeness and sense of balance in creating the mind, body, and soul connection.