Why Should Kids Do Yoga?
By Deborah Thomas Snode, BS Psych, E-RYT 500, RCYT
If you do yoga, you’ve reaped the health and relaxation benefits of the practice and may be on board for children having the same benefits to their lives. If you don’t have your own practice and aren’t familiar with yoga’s benefits, here are some scientifically backed up reasons to get your children involved with yoga now.
Yoga Balances the Requirements of Their World
We send our children to school to receive a good education. Schools are universally looking for ways to improve students’ abilities to perform well in school as well as how this time in school translates into life-long learning. With the support and guidance of the best professional teachers, students are immersed in multitudes of activities interacting with advanced technologies that today’s society demands. It’s known that better health, higher self-esteem, stronger emotional balance, and decreased anxiety are the foundation for developing academic strength and positive social interaction. Health and physical education courses do their part in promoting academic achievement. However, considering our highly “IT connected” world, students may need some better way to “get off line” and disconnect. Yoga may fill this void, downloading and re-directing synaptic pathways, allowing for cognitive re-tooling and promotion of relevant academic achievement.
Yoga Improves Health and Physical Fitness
A study at The Accelerated School in the Los Angeles Unified School District has shown that yoga improves physical fitness. The students there, participating in only yoga classes for their physical education requirements, scored significantly higher in state mandated physical fitness tests compared to the average scores of students in the entire school district. In addition to improving strength, flexibility, and body composition, yoga helps children relieve discomfort from chronic back pain as a result of poor posture, heavy backpacks, and participation in the extreme fitness regimens of sports training. In a recent survey of 54 high school students, twenty-four percent of the teens reported suffering from pain or discomfort, definitely a distraction from their ability to participate fully in the academic process.
By teaching techniques for everyday use, yoga connects what is done in the physical education class with the everyday lives of the students. It supports the philosophy of physical education standards which state that students should “be equipped with the knowledge and skills to be physically active over the course of the lifespan.”
Yoga has Psychological and Psychosocial Benefits
As it is in the fight or flight response, “If the lion is about to eat me, doing algebra won’t help.” Literally, cognitive function can be disabled by stressful and emotional situations. Multiple studies have shown that yoga lessens anxiety, improves self-esteem, and reduces oppositional and disruptive behavior in students including students with ADHD. In a recent study at a Massachusetts high school, negative emotions were shown to improve in students taking yoga. In addition, good posture neurologically improves emotions and energy levels. In studies by the Harvard Business School, posture has been shown to affect how people feel about themselves and how they interact with one another.
Yoga Improves Cognitive Brain Function
A study of the Harvard Medical School at the Horace Mann Middle School in South Central Los Angeles found that the mean grade point averages of students exposed the most frequently to the yoga based curriculum was significantly higher than students who had no or less exposure. A more recent study of the University of Illinois found that a single twenty-minute session of yoga significantly improved participants’ speed and accuracy on tests of working memory and attention. Yoga also improves concentration and focus which has proven helpful for students with ADHD, especially later in the day when medications have worn off.
Yoga Cultivates a Culture of Compassion
Yoga can be a way to bring the concept of unity to the forefront of children’s understanding. As behavior improves, schools could see a decrease in the amount of regulating needed for extra-curricular and community events and an overall safer environment in which students can work and play.
Gothe, 2013. The Acute Affects of Yoga on Executive Function. University of Illinois.
Benson and Wilcher, 2000. Academic Performance Among Middle School Students after Exposure to a Relaxation Response Curriculum. Journal of Research and Development in Education.
Slovacek, Tucker, and Pantoja, 2003. A Study of the Yoga Ed Program at the Accelerated School, LA Unified School District.
Kaiser-Greenland’s Innerkids program, 2007. UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center.
Noggle, 2013. Harvard Medical School, Boston, with Kripalu Yoga.
Jensen and Kenny, 2004. The Effects of Yoga on the attention and Behavior of Boys with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders.
Carney, Cuddy, and Yap, 2010. Harvard Business School. Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance. Psychological Science.
State of Ohio Physical Education Standards, 2013-2014.
Snode, 2013. Yoga for Athletes Level 1, Survey results.