The benefits of yoga for children

By Elise Dewar

Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years and is increasingly popular in the modern world for adults, so what does this ancient practice offer our children?

The literal translation of yoga is to ‘yolk’ together or unite. This refers to the alignment of body, mind and breath through coordinated movements, mindfulness and controlled breathing. Put simply, the practice of yoga can help us detach from the busyness of our day-to-day lives and find a sense of calm.

For children, who are seemingly very present in the moment, yoga provides an opportunity to focus on their developing motor and cognitive skills.

Experience shows that our little yogis can get into “flow” (a state of mindfulness) relatively easily due to their inbuilt ability to appreciate what is happening right there in front of them. Yoga is a great way for them to practice and hone their balance, coordination and breathing in a peaceful and non-competitive environment.

Yoga for children is about connecting dots – providing a safe playground for learning ways to balance, stretch and strengthen their developing bodies whilst practising focus, attention and regulation of emotions. It offers a range of interactive activities that are targeted at stimulating different sensory systems in ways that assist development, are fun, instil confidence and self-belief. Children learn to interact positively with themselves and each other, they also learn how to slow down, relax and be calm.

Yoga can also be taught to babies as young as a few months old. This might involve supported movements to assist muscle and joint development, digestion, or helping them discover their senses and where they are in space as they begin exploring their surroundings. Yoga for babies can also involve song and physical contact, such as massage, this strengthens the bond between a parent and baby whilst calming and relaxing them both. Yoga can help activate left and right brain hemisphere functions, assist with the development of communication and prepare a baby for learning to be upright, crawl and walk.

As babies grow and become more mobile, yoga becomes an opportunity to play and be active. Games and yoga poses offer toddlers and young children new ways to invoke their imagination, using their bodies to make shapes, learning where their breath is and how to use it. By pretending to be a lion, for example, children can stretch out their tongues, strengthen their vocal skills with a roar, balance on all fours, extend their limbs and, above all, gain confidence to try new skills and have fun.

Overall, yoga offers a broad range of healthy, dynamic movements and stimulations in an environment where children are free to express themselves and be creative individuals. It unites the physical and cognitive elements that are required for healthy development and personal growth.

In 2020 Gowrie Training & Consultancy was successful in achieving funding from Calvary Tasmania Community Council Grants to support ‘First Steps Towards Physical Health and Wellbeing’, a project for the Huon Valley community. The project, acknowledging parents as key enablers of their children’s health and wellbeing, included a series of yoga workshops for parents with their infants and toddlers and the development of a suite of fact sheets for parents. Yoga workshops were offered at wayraparattee Child and Family Learning Centre in Geeveston by Elise Dewar, from Tula Yoga in Hobart.