So what about yoga for kids? Does it really help them face childhood challenges like autism, ADHD, obesity, and stress? Teresa Anne Power weighs in about how yoga can be a part of the solution.
Practicing simple yoga poses is one way to help with numerous childhood challenges facing our youth today, including autism, ADHD, obesity, and stress; it teaches not only physical skills such as flexibility, strength, stamina, balance, and coordination but is also a valuable method of stress reduction through conscious breath and focus. As our society begins to adapt to a faster pace of life, yoga can provide a sense of calm for both adults as well as children.
Autism & Yoga
Yoga produces vast benefits for kids with autism, a developmental disorder that typically appears in the first three years of life; whether mild or severe, autism spectrum disorders nevertheless interfere with a child’s ability to communicate and understand social cues. This causes anxiety, obsessive behavior, and difficulty managing emotions.
Children with autism who practice yoga begin to feel more calm and comfortable in their bodies. As a result, they experience less anxiety and it becomes easier for them to control their behavior and emotions.
Some benefits of yoga for kids with autism include:
- Better balance and increased body awareness
- Improved sociability
- Improved communication, namely more spontaneous speech
- Increased strength and coordination
- Improved mood and self-esteem.
Colorful pictures depicting how to do yoga poses can be very helpful for children with autism, as they are very visually oriented. The capability to understand one’s actions and imitate those actions is directly correlated to the development of social-communication skills.
For example, simply holding Tree pose is very effective in helping autistic children focus and develop their attention. With their feet firmly planted on the ground and their mind focused on breathing, it is much easier to feel a sense of control over themselves and of their surroundings.
ADHD & Yoga
Tree pose is also a great posture for children with ADHD, as it helps them to build better focus and concentration. Kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder act without thinking, are hyperactive and have trouble focusing. These children may understand what is expected of them but have difficulty following through, because they can’t sit still, pay attention, or attend to details. Yoga helps children with ADHD by boosting concentration and focus while reducing impulsivity and hyperactivity.
Some benefits of yoga for kids with ADHD include:
- Increased attention span
- Greater listening skills
- Sharper concentration
- Better relationships with others.
Obesity & Yoga
Besides autism and ADHD, our youth are facing the challenge of obesity. Video games, TV, the internet, and fast-food are partly to blame; an increasingly sedentary lifestyle has consequences for children. However, an increase in activity and awareness can help with this epidemic. Physical activity, such as yoga, is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Indeed, anecdotal reports suggest that yoga can reduce obesity.
With a regular yoga practice, kids gain a greater understanding of how their bodies move. In turn, they tend to develop healthier eating habits and take better care of themselves. As a result, their self-confidence and self-awareness grows. Kite pose is great for weight loss as it slims the waist, expands the chest, and helps to remove fat from the hips.
Stress & Yoga
Lastly, yoga can help kids deal with stress. Stress can come in many forms for children, including the demands of school, test-taking, bullying, peer pressure, and increased exposure to violence, both real and in film and television. In addition, children are under tremendous pressure to achieve. A number of studies have shown that yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety and can also enhance one’s mood and overall sense of well-being.
Practiced regularly, yoga can improve the lives of children who face autism, ADHD, obesity and stress. It is a natural and healthy way for kids to exercise, relax, focus, and strengthen their minds and bodies. If our next generation could learn to calm themselves, while at the same time building strength and fortitude, our world would be a better place. With more body awareness, kids can make better choices for keeping their bodies healthy, both mentally and spiritually.
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