Yoga and meditation are two valuable disciplines rising in popularity all over the world. Their benefits for adults are widely known, but many don’t realize these benefits extend to kids too.
Yoga is often introduced to children through seasonal camps, physical education classes and after-school programs. The stretches build muscles and overall body awareness.
Meditation is also becoming more mainstream. It gives kids a head start toward appreciating mindfulness. Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated. To get started, your children should sit quietly and breathe. That’s it. Even if you only have five free minutes in the morning. Encourage your children to count their breaths – they can even do this in the car on their way to school. When their minds drift off, they can go back to counting breaths. There’s no such thing as bad meditation. And it gets easier the more times they do it.
Yoga and meditation, when gently introduced to kids, strengthens both body-mind connections and non-judgmental awareness.
Other benefits of yoga and meditation for kids
Studies show that kids who practice yoga learn tools to effectively control their impulses. They feel a certain calmness. At school, this allows them to pay better attention during class.
Meditation is all about following the breath. Deep breathing alone centers children and they realize their inherent power to deal with all kinds of challenges. They don’t have to react. For example, they can pause, inhale and exhale. That extra moment allows them to think things through before deciding on an appropriate response.
Better concentration in school
Kids are routinely distracted, both in and out of class. Technology, social media and video games make it increasingly difficult for children to stay attentive for long periods of time.
Practicing poses requires kids to clear their minds. They must focus on what they are doing in order to do it well. They discipline their mind for the here and now. This is a valuable skill, teaching them to focus on what’s happening. This also extends to schoolwork and other extra-curricular activities.
Kids who meditate each morning, or evening, tend to also practice mindfulness throughout the day. It soon becomes a healthy habit. Meditation teaches them that shutting off distractions to stay attentive to their own bodies for a few minutes feels good. They listen to their heartbeats. They also count their breaths. And the more they do this, the longer it lasts.
More empathy for others
Schools where yoga is a part of the curriculum report lower rates of aggression among students. This is because the act of practicing yoga helps bring about a sound spirit. A student’s physical body expels excess energy through stretching. This results in more patience and concentration.
While meditating, children experience similar feelings of security and inner stability. This in turn builds compassion for others. They are less likely to lose patience with classmates and act out in violent or inappropriate ways.
Some schools have reported that replacing detention with meditation has helped decrease bullying as well. A pilot study in San Francisco schools shows that meditation among students, including at-risk youth, decreased suspensions by over 70%. Grades also went up.
Kids learn how strong they are in yoga and all the ways their muscles work together. They grow more agile and flexible. They practice poses when they’re sitting in desks, standing in lines or lying down. All the time getting stronger.
Keep in mind that group sports are not for everyone. And yet, kids still need access to activity. Something more in line with their personalities. Yoga is such an option.
Some studies also suggest meditation benefits athletes. It’s recommended that players who meditate before games or fitness activities will see improved performance.
Yoga includes breathing techniques and behavioral guidelines. These are needed to physically master many poses. In similar ways, when children breathe and concentrate, they understand the balance between physical and emotional states of being. This leads to heightened self-discovery.
Meditation helps children learn how to get along with other children. They become more understanding, listening rather than speaking. This builds better relationships. When conflicts do arise, children are equipped through social/emotional balance to solve them in appropriate ways.
Builds self-esteem and self-respect
Yoga and meditation are about the effort, or journey, rather than any particular outcome. In this age of hyper-competitiveness, kids benefit from comparing themselves to no one but themselves.
Each child finds inner motivation. Therefore, when children master a particular pose, they feel good about it.
There are many pressures today. Anxiety-ridden adults look back at their childhood to see where it started. Meditation can thwart a tendency to worry with mindfulness. There’s no “should be” in meditation. It is just right now. And that’s always good enough.
Teaches important values
Yoga and meditation for kids have instructors who often talk about behaving ethically. In between poses and breaths, they also routinely stress the importance of empathy, kindness, peace and love.
Improving gross and fine motor skills
Yoga helps kids develop stronger hand strength and flexibility. When they balance themselves on their hands, this leads to developed fine motor skills. Gross motor skills are developed through stretches, including any standing and sitting poses.
Meditation also integrates mindfulness for contemplative movements. Breathing improves physical awareness and agility.
Quiets many symptoms in those with learning disabilities
Specifically, yoga helps children with autism and ADHD. This is especially true when symptoms include social withdrawal and hyperactivity. Yoga brings like-minded kids together to practice appropriate strength training in a way that other physical activities can’t quite manage. Yoga addresses anxiety, poor coordination, and the inability to self-regulate.
Just the act of sitting and meditating increases a child’s ability to manage ADHD and hyperactivity. It takes practice, but eventually students learn to meditate and calm themselves even while walking down a noisy hallway. Breathing functions as a release valve when it comes to controlling symptoms and triggers.
In conclusion, both yoga and meditation help kids in a variety of ways.
These are tools that instill confidence, mindfulness and physical awareness. With practice, students grow more empathetic and compassionate – as well as stronger and more flexible.