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Yogi Kids: Nurture Focus, Self Esteem, Fitness with Yoga

By: Christa Melnyk Hines

When Libbey York enrolled her sons Graham, 8, and Lawson, 4, in a children’s yoga class last summer thinking they could meet friends and try something new. Their response surprised her. “They couldn’t stop talking about all of their new moves and practicing their poses all around the house,” she says. In addition to enhancing her sons’ flexibility and strength, “the class improved their focus and body awareness as they attempted the poses,” says York, who is also a yoga practitioner and instructor.

Linking mind and body. Yoga, which in Sanskrit means “to yoke,” nurtures a connection between the mind, body and spirit. Balancing poses like airplane and tree, for example, strengthen muscles and also require mental focus and concentration to achieve and hold. Research suggests that yoga can help kids improve academic performance, physical fitness, self-awareness, self-esteem, concentration, emotional balance and behavior.

Slow down and breathe. In a 2014 “Stress in America” survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, more parents than non-parents report that they struggle to manage the stress of jobs and family responsibilities. Since children pick up on the tensions of their caregivers, they may internalize more stress too. Multiple studies have found that yoga offers effective stress relief for all ages.

Focus power. In a study conducted by School Psychology Review, researchers found that regular yoga practice can help children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) learn to calm their minds and focus on the present, improving on-task time and attention. Even kids who don’t suffer from ADHD can benefit especially in a world where they’re often distracted by electronic devices. The mindfulness techniques that yoga practice offers can help kids re-focus on the present and concentrate on tasks like homework and chores that require their undivided attention.

Get moving. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 12 million kids between the ages of 2 and 19 years old are considered obese. Yoga offers a gentle way to get kids moving, strengthen muscles, improve flexibility and practice gross motor skills.

Spread the love. “Yoga fosters self acceptance and actualization. It invites all participants to improve concentration and focus, and even helps develop self-compassion and compassion for others,” writes Kristin Henningsen, adjunct professor at Kaplan University School of Health Sciences in her report “The Benefits of Yoga for Children.” To learn more about area classes and workshops for your kids, visit www.namastekid.com or check out your local community center, area gyms and yoga studios.

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