Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years by adults. More recently it has become a popular activity to do with children as well. Is this a fad or is there medical proof that they are benefiting from this? Could it be harmful? Let’s explore whether yoga is right for your child.
WHAT IS YOGA?
Yoga is considered to be a fun, healthy leisure activity that develops a “healthy mind and body and improved response to stress” (Weaver & Darragh, 2015, p. 6906180070p2) It is a mindful practice that uses structured movement to help control mental activity. It involves different body postures, exercises, breathing techniques, as well as mental awareness and self-control skills. (Weaver & Darragh, 2015) Children’s yoga is generally the same as adult yoga in theory and practice but is conducted with a greater element of playfulness.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Evidence-based research shows that there are proven benefits to yoga for children. Eggleston (2015) argues that yoga is not just valuable for adults. Studies show that starting yoga at a young age can set them up to be a more successful adult. “Beginning yoga at a young age leads to the development of an adult who is more relaxed, calm and confident.” (Eggleston, 2015, p. 1) Chimiklis et al. (2018) also agree that yoga is beneficial. “Yoga has been shown to positively affect physical and mental states and reduce stress in both clinical and non-clinical settings.” (Chimiklis et al., 2018, p. 3156) Yoga can also have a holistic benefit for the child because it incorporates therapy for the mind and body. It can be done independently or with friends and family to improve social bonds and skills.
CAN YOGA BENEFIT YOUR CHILD?
Yoga has been proven to help a wide variety of children. Whether they have a diagnosis or are just looking for something fun to do to relax this could be perfect for them. Yoga can beneficial for children with:
- A history of trauma
- Mental disorders
- Physical disabilities
- Mood disorders
- Attention disorders
WHAT EXACTLY DOES IT DO?
Since our children spend the majority of their days between work and school, the benefits are broken down into both areas. A child that is well balanced at home will behave and perform better at school and vice versa.
Yoga can help your child in school to:
- Feel less stressed
- Increase self-esteem
- Make fewer mistakes
- Increase academic success
- Improve behavior
- Improve attention
Yoga can help your child at home to:
- Reduce anxiety
- Reduce suicidal thoughts
- Enhance emotional regulation
- Manage stress
- Be more mindful
- Slow breathing
- Increase strength
This is a great example of how yoga can help on a personal, social and academic level. Please note that it is not promising to be a be-all, end-all, but that it can make a significant difference in a child’s ability to perform meaningful activities in their daily life.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
Russell et al. (2016) reviewed yoga-related injuries at select Canadian emergency departments (ED) from 1991 to 2010. Sixty-six individuals (adults and children) were treated. They discovered that “although yoga-related injuries presenting to an ED were not common, the number of injuries is increasing.” (p. 284) The findings by Russell et al. conclude that “the majority of yoga adverse events affected the musculoskeletal system and included fractures, sprains, and tendinous lesions of the lower extremity” (2016, p.287) The injuries could have been caused by static poses or by hyper-flexing but are not described in such detail in the research. No injury was mentioned due to fatigue, overheating, dehydration, or any other means so that will remain uncertain.
In conclusion, yoga can provide a healthy outlet to practice mindfulness, physical activity, and social skills. It is inexpensive to do and can be done virtually anywhere at any time by the young or old. However, to be safe you should always consult with a licensed physician before starting a new activity or exercise routine.
Miss Amanda is a COTA/L that practices out of a pediatric outpatient clinic in central Massachusetts. She enjoys watching her clients become more successful and independent in their daily activities. When she isn’t researching new ways to help her clients she enjoys going on adventures with her husband and two children.
Chimiklis, A. L., Dahl, V., Spears, A. P., Goss, K., Fogarty, K., & Chacko, A. (2018). Yoga, Mindfulness, and Meditation Interventions for Youth with ADHD: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 27(10), 3155–3168. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1148-7
Eggleston, B. (2015). The Benefits of Yoga for Children in Schools. International Journal of Health, Wellness & Society, 5(3), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.18848/2156-8960/CGP/v05i03/41125
Russell, K., Gushue, S., Richmond, S., & McFaull, S. (2016). Epidemiology of yoga-related injuries in Canada from 1991 to 2010: a case series study. International Journal of Injury Control & Safety Promotion, 23(3), 284–290. https://doi.org/10.1080/17457300.2015.1032981
Weaver, L. L., & Darragh, A. R. (2015). Systematic Review of Yoga Interventions for Anxiety Reduction Among Children and Adolescents. The American Journal Of Occupational Therapy: Official Publication Of The American Occupational Therapy Association, 69(6), 6906180070p1-9. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.020115
Yoga Therapy. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aeQ3ZKx2zI