Have you ever heard anyone say “namaste” to a group of children? For those of you who think it would be impossible to get them to sit still for five minutes straight, think again.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended yoga as a safe and potentially effective therapy for young ones who are coping with emotional, mental, physical or behavioural health conditions, and there’s a good reason for that.
“Stretching the body can relieve tense or rigid muscles. Certain movements can even ease constipation. Also, holding yoga poses increases strength and stamina when practiced regularly,” says Dr Maurice El Khoury, specialist paediatrician at Healthpoint.
Experts say that, because yoga involves a combination of postures, hand poses, meditation and regulated breathing techniques, its benefits may often exceed those of certain types of sports.
“Most importantly, the well-being aspect of yoga can help youngsters disconnect from technology and go on a mini ‘digital detox’, encouraging them to focus on the here and now. They gain awareness of how their bodies function and manage their emotions much more effectively,” he adds.
Numerous studies have shown that yoga improves mood, self-confidence and concentration, while reducing anxiety and hyperactivity -- all of which applies to kids as well.
“Research published in The American Journal of Occupational Therapy has found that daily yoga helps children with autism spectrum disorder, lowering their levels of social withdrawal,” El Khoury explains.
A separate study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Paediatrics revealed that introducing yoga to high school physical education classes lifted teenagers’ mood, alleviating anxiety and leading to higher test scores. Yoga for better grades? That sounds like a dream come true.
So how can you encourage your kids to do yoga, and more movement-filled activities in general?
“Some people have misconceptions about yoga, thinking that it’s not real exercise. To the contrary, children of all ages, backgrounds and fitness levels can benefit from it, with many top athletes using it as a form of cross training,” he says.
If your little ones find yoga difficult at first, explain to them that, the more they practise, the more naturally the poses will come to them, and try joining them for a session.