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Yoga for Kids

by Heather Fuselier

Yoga has been found to help children deal with stress, calm themselves more effectively, improve their self-esteem and body awareness.

The best part of any workout class for me is always the stretch at the end. It feels so nice to take a few moments to be still, stretch and be present with myself. Over time, my stretching habits evolved into attending yoga classes. When I make time for it regularly, I am more balanced, less prone to injury and just happier overall!

Kids’ yoga is not a new phenomenon, but it is under-utilized. Children especially can benefit from yoga exercises during times of growth spurts, while participating in sports seasons and for stress relief. With standardized tests on the horizon this spring, it’s a great time to incorporate family yoga and stretching into your routine.

Stretching Basics

To teach your kids proper stretching, plan time for it before and after physical activities such as running or playing sports. There are two types of stretching: static (not moving) and dynamic (moving). Dynamic stretching should be done before being active to help warm up your muscles and get them ready for action. Arm circles, leg swings, and twisting the torso are great examples.

When practice or playtime is over, it’s time for static stretching. Static stretches are more focused on individual muscle groups, and are the deep, concentrated stretches we often think of. Focus on the muscle groups used in the activity, and demonstrate to your kids how to stretch properly: stretching the muscle to the point of firmness, not pain, and then holding for 20 to 30 seconds. It’s important not to bounce during static stretches as this can injure your muscle.

Regardless of when you stretch, the practice of making time for it is just as valuable for teaching our kids the importance of self-care.

Yoga for Kids (and you too!)

The busy pace of life these days often leaves us yearning for a place of respite, relaxation and quiet. For many, that place is yoga class. In yoga, we can quiet our minds and detach from the stressful aspects of our day. But how often do we grant that opportunity to our children? We transport them from school to sports to lessons and then turn on the television when we get home. As a result, many of our children are just as stressed out as we are and can benefit from the relaxing nature of yoga.

Yoga has been found to help children deal with stress, calm themselves more effectively, improve their self-esteem and body awareness, as well as foster cooperation and compassion for others. It can also enhance flexibility, strength and coordination. Yoga allows children to slow down and get to know themselves and develop a longer attention span.

Kid-friendly yoga classes should be taught by someone who understands the challenge of holding a child’s attention long enough for them to learn about stillness, balance, focus, health and well-being. The classes should be full of movement and open to interpretation; the idea is to foster a love for physical activity–not focus on doing everything correctly.

Kids can take yoga classes locally at various studios, and if you aren’t sure, ask your favorite yoga studio if they allow children. Many do and welcome them. DVDs are also available online for families who want to practice yoga together at home.

Yoga is a journey that takes discipline, practice and patience. When children are exposed to these elements in a caring, calm and supportive environment, they may end up teaching us a few things about how to deal with stress! Practice yoga with your kids and embark on this wellness journey together.

Heather Fuselier is a certified wellness coach living and working in Tallahassee. You can read more about her services at wellnesswithoutpity.com.

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