My yoga journey began at the age of 29 (I’m 46 now). Throughout the years, I’ve often said to myself, “I wish I had found yoga when I was younger.” Not because I’d be closer to twisting myself into a pretzel, but because I now understand and have experienced the benefits of breathwork and yoga. However… what if we taught kids to tune in to their bodies and breath? As an educator (and research nerd), I decided to do some reading about the impact of yoga on children.
Let’s be clear here, there are so many “kids yoga” programs out there. I opted to steer clear of yoga games and silly animal yoga and instead drilled right down into the impact of a more traditional (breathing, movement, meditation) practice with kids. Then I took it a step further by piloting a morning yoga program at my elementary school. The responses from kids, teachers, and parents blew me away!
- Kids identified how their emotions manifested physically and could explain when and why to use each breathing practice
- Kids asked for more time to sit and breathe quietly
- Third graders and fifth graders shared that they were aware of their own capacity to control their behavior when frustrated or upset
- Teachers across all grade levels and content areas reported that the students who practiced breathing and movement – even just once a week – demonstrated improved focus
- Parents asked for an after school yoga club (and we delivered)
- At the end of each session we said, “When we change our breath, we change our brain.” and all the kids could explain what that meant
- Kids and teachers prompted one another to use breath or movement in stressful situations (think STAAR test)
- Kids who, at the beginning of the year, reported ‘not being good at anything’, changed that to ‘being good at yoga and controlling themselves’ by the end of the year
I’m not saying that yoga fixes everything, but the mindfulness part of the practice can create positive shifts one may not have expected. Yoga may seem weird to kids at first – lots of them giggle and that’s totally ok! Yoga offers them (and us) the opportunity to take control of their responses to stimuli and stress and to practice compassion for themselves and others. Lucky kids…