Emotional benefits of Yoga for Children

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When we learn to pay attention to our breath, it can tell us something about how we are feeling. With this awareness we can discover the capacity of using our breath for all situations.

The emotional benefits of Yoga for children cannot be emphasised enough. When it comes to children, these are practically incredible too. I have been teaching kids yoga, weekly once for the last 7 years. The children in the class are always energetic, outgoing, and eager to contort themselves into animal poses (with animal sounds, of course). The most challenging part of each session is getting the little students to appreciate savasana (final relaxation), or, as we called it then, “the silent game.”

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Parents usually approach me and ask for tips on how they might encourage their child to practice more silence at home. My standard response is a suggestion that they practice with their child. As much as I would have liked to take credit for the well-mannered and relaxed children at the end of class, it isn’t mine to claim. It is the essence of yoga itself and a testament to how it can be adapted to fit different people.

Give your child the opportunity to learn how to manage their emotions and physical health with this fun and comprehensive Yoga class designed for 5 – 12 year olds.

Budding Yogis would learn:

  • Asana (Yoga postures)
  • Pranayama (Breath Control)
  • Meditation and self-calming techniques
  • Yoga Ethics – Yama & Niyama (eg kindness, honesty)
  • Games and activities to nurture and inspire them

One of the great joys of teaching yoga and mindfulness to children is introducing them to the wonder of breath. When we learn to pay attention to our breath, it can tell us something about how we are feeling. With this awareness we can discover the capacity of using our breath for all situations.

When we teach kids to pay attention to their breath, then educate them on how to breathe fully and deeply we are actually familiarizing them with the effects of the parasympathetic nervous system. This branch of the autonomic nervous system induces calm and relaxation; it sends signals through the body that all is well and safe. From this place of calm and ease we are better able to access and strengthen connections to the area of the brain that helps manage our emotions and solve problems more skill fully.

Empowering kids from a young age about the value of their own breath is a powerful tool for teaching self-regulation. Practicing breathing with your child creates experiences that help them integrate healthy ways for coping with strong emotions.

Here are some fun ideas for teaching your child at home.

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  • Make it experiential! Using a prop like a pinwheel or bubbles can make breath work fun! These props not only capture a young child’s attention but can also help teach a child to slow down and extend their exhalation. This is important because the extension of the exhaled breath is what helps ignite the parasympathetic nervous system.

Here are some instructions for teaching breathing exercises with the use of a prop:

Remember to make it fun and practice when your child is calm and alert. Keep in mind your child’s attention span. Short periods of practice throughout the week works best.

  • Sitting up tall, take a full breath of air in through the nose—closing your mouth. (You might demonstrate and point to your nose).
  • Lean slightly forward and with pursed lips, s-l-o-w-l-y blow out through the mouth as if gently blowing someone a kiss or cooling off hot food for a baby. (This action will cause the pinwheel to spin or the bubbles to be blown). You can model this breathing technique by dramatizing the inhale, pointing to your nose, then pursing your lips and making an audible sound with your breath as you s-l-o-w-l-y and steadily breathe out through your mouth.
  • Wait 2-3 seconds before taking another breath and then start the instructions again. Repeat and practice these steps 2-3 times.

During this exercise bring awareness to the breath by using words or phrases like:

  • I can breathe out slowly to help calm my body.
  • My breath helps me feel still.
  • When I’m feeling mad, my breath can help make me feel safe and calm.

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