The practice of yoga is holistic in that it is designed to bring balance to the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional components that influence our overall well-being.
This trans-formative practice has the ability to impact mood, self-awareness, self-acceptance, cognition, stress levels and overall mental health because it provides a calming effect to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) and sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The HPA axis and the SNS are triggered from psychological or physical stressors and when continually fired can lead to host of negative psychological and behavioral effects.
Ok, but what the heck does that mean?? Let’s break it down into terms we can all understand…
In today’s society most of us (including our children) are running around in fight or flight mode without taking time to slow down. Our lives move a mile a minute and so do our thoughts. This “energizer bunny” type of lifestyle leads to anxiety, stress and a whole lotta unhappy people. So, what can we do about this? Just except that we have to live this way? I think not!
Yoga and meditation are mindful practices that allow us to break down this pattern.
In order to bring more happiness, love, connection, mindfulness and community into our world we need to start nurturing ourselves from the inside out and begin to teach our children the same. If we can first empower ourselves with the knowledge that through practicing yoga and meditation we can be in control of our thoughts and emotions, imagine what that can do for our children!
Having children who understand how to slow down the racing thoughts, lessen the intensity of emotions, calm their bodies, truly love themselves and are able to be mindful and present in each moment would be truly profound. The benefits behind getting children involved in a yoga practice are only beginning to fully be understood, but from what has been discovered so far it seems the positive implications are endless.
Check out what happened when researchers did a study that focused on the perceptions of yoga among 3rd graders in a low-income neighborhood.
In 2010 a yoga/meditation program that was designed to be a preventative measure in reducing stress and improving behavior for students who were at risk for learning problems was implemented. The 24 students did weekly 45 minute yoga sessions during their normal school day and 4 days a week their classroom teacher led a 15 minute yoga session in the classroom. The program was made up of background music, specific yoga poses, mental imagery, and a creative activity that brought it all together into a learning experience that the students could take away.
After the program was completed the students were given a crayon and asked to draw a picture of the yoga program. They were then asked questions about their pictures. Three themes emerged: (1) participants felt calm and focused, (2) had a sense of control over their behavior, and (3) had a positive self-concept.
These outcomes were also very apparent in the self-report the kids gave about the program. When one student was asked about his drawing he said, “Inside your body it feels like it’s calmed down, it’s smooth”. Another student, said, “It helps me, like when I get mad it helps me calm down.” He talked about how he used what he had learned at home when his brother would pick on him, and when asked how often he used it he said, “I use it all the time.”
Students also reported how it helped them concentrate in school. One student said, “When I concentrate on like the laying down part, it helps my brain and stuff, it helps me relax so I can get all the hyperness out of me, so I can be good at studying.”
On top of that students reported feeling, “free”, “in my own world”, “happy” and “makes me feel good”.
One student even said, “It changed me from bad to good. I started from bad and went all the way up to good from yoga.” And that yoga, “gives you power, and you can be strong…you can be strong in the whole wide world by using your power.”
Overall, the participants described yoga as an escape from their otherwise stressful lives and would often try to and get parents or other family members to practice with them at home (Case-Smith, Sines, Klatt, 2010).
These self-report statements are not only profound, they are powerful and this POWER needs to shared!
As a children’s yoga teacher I have learned many things, but the one lesson that sticks out is; teaching yoga to children is truly the definition of “Namaste“. Meaning hat, “the teacher in me honors the teacher in you”. There is so much we can learn from children. Be present, allow space for silliness, laughter and the simple joys of childhood and let the worry over following directions or having perfect alignment fall away. These are the moments you will remember for a lifetime and so will your kiddos!
The most important thing we can do is get children engaged in these practices so they become intrinsically motivated to continue their practice as they grow up. Yoga is a life-enhancing gift that can change the way the next generation not only feels about themselves, but how they interact with each other and the world around them.
Get your family involved in the mindful revolution!
How do you add mindfulness into your home life? Please share your thoughts!
Case-Smith, J., Sines, J., Klatt, M. (2010): Perceptions of children who participated in a school-based yoga program. Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention, 3.3, 226-238.