Why Kids Need Yoga
Last weekend we had a yoga-themed birthday party for my twins. The boys and their friends participated in a yoga class which was of course followed up with cookies, cake and songs. The day was amazing and the boys had a great time. On the way home they cried and said, “I’m sad my party is over, I want my birthday party back.” I validated their sadness as the end of a party is tough on all of us. Then my son said, “Let’s take deep breaths, like in yoga.” Together we all took big belly breaths to help us calm down from a big day and to help us manage our emotions. This is why kids need yoga.
So often when I suggest yoga to the families of my sensory, anxious or hyperactive clients I hear, “They could never sit still and do that.” Children’s yoga is not about stillness but rather being in tune with our bodies and the movements it can make. Sensory seekers and sensory avoiders alike can benefit from looking inward. The classes involve play, music, toys, and props. Yoga classes are a place for children to express themselves in a world where they often feel they have to repress themselves. One of my favorite poses to do with my clients is “Lion Pose.” We crouch down like a lion, open our mouths wide and let out the biggest roar we can. We think about our negative emotions and experiences and we “roar” them out. It’s such a release!
The release of our negative emotions is one of the many amazing benefits of children’s yoga. Another benefit, that so many children are seeking, is the building of self-confidence. Unlike other sports, yoga is not competitive. In yoga we work to look only at ourselves and be the best we can each week. We celebrate our individual growth without comparing ourselves to others. An important piece of yoga is finding and repeating “mantras.” This can be helpful for children and adults (it is one of my favorite aspects of my yoga practice). A mantra can be, “I am beautiful,” “I am brave,” “I can do this,” the sound of “om,” or anything else we need to hear. In the world of Snapchat and Instagram children are often being compared and put down. In yoga they are given the opportunity to embrace themselves with love.
Our children are living in a world that can often be unkind and that can be beyond busy. Children are scheduled for after school activities, sports, and more, while trying to manage homework and friendships. This is a difficult challenge for all children and even more so for sensory, hyper and anxious kids. In their busy worlds, children need to stop and take deep breaths. When we breathe, typically our breaths are shallow, but we need and deserve to fill our whole bodies with air. In my office we practice taking “balloon breaths” where we fill our bellies up like big balloons and slowly let the air out.
My sons have been attending yoga classes with Liz Torres at Mindful Yoga With Liz. Liz recently opened a studio on Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie. I highly recommend her classes for children of all ages (and families too), you can visit her website at MindfulYogaWithLiz.com. Liz’s classes balance fun, mindfulness and calm in a way that kids appreciate. In each class she has my sons ring the yoga bells and take the time to listen to the sound before they ring them again. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life we forget to take the time to listen. Yoga helps us remember to do this.
Therapy and yoga have so many of the same goals. They both ask us to practice mindfulness, building confidence, and breathing. Please keep an eye out as Liz and I are working together to bring the combination of yoga and therapy to our community. We want to create a space where kids are free to express who they are, to listen to their bodies and to find strength and support in each other and in themselves.