Why Yoga for Youth? It may seem trendy or alternative to some but Yoga is a practice that has been around for thousands of years. Some people practice yoga merely for the physical benefits while others find their practice has spiritual, mental or emotional benefits. Over the past decade it has become a popular trend outside of traditional adult practitioners, with the practice being embraced by not only adults looking to improve their health, flexibility and overall well-being, but increasingly by teens, the elderly and younger children. The practice of yoga in schools is seeing a greater trend nationally with adoption by in-house public school programs as well as extracurricular programming in communities across the nation. And the real benefits to children are, scientifically, proving to be many. A 2003 study by California State University found that yoga improved student’s behavior, physical health and academic performance as well as attitudes toward themselves, all benefits that a parent can see after only a short time of their children involved in regular practice. In addition to physical improvement in fine motor skills, posture and breathing, children who are engaged in yoga practice have been found to have improved concentration, lower stress levels, socializing and cognitive development.

It’s no secret that most of our kids live and need to learn to succeed in a world that runs continuously on fast forward. Accelerated education curriculum, optional after school programs, video games and electronics that come out with new, improved iterations every month, and parents whose own schedules create a sense of urgency for their kids as they’re carted between school to soccer, violin, play dates and the grocery store all contribute to a child’s innate need to slow down, rest and just “be.” It’s no wonder then that a regular physical practice that helps our kids learn to slow down and focus, like yoga, can become so critical to a child’s development.

PBS Parents, an online resource that has been created with input from experts in child psychology, early childhood education, media and other fields, says that yoga for kids has the following benefits to children:

Teaches children about their bodies through physical asana (poses) and helps children to be strong and flexible
Teaches children to breathe better resulting higher energy levels
Teaches children to effectively channel that energy by learning to be relaxed, focused or motivated.
Teaches kids to quiet the mind by teaching the skill of stillness, listening and making good decisions
Teaches children balance (helpful physically and in school)
Teaches children the importance of taking care of “self” by demonstrating healthy choices in relationships with friends, family and even foods.

Yoga, while improving these certain physical conditions, can be a fun, interactive practice that helps children with their imagination and creativity. Poses like “Tree” pose, “Lion” pose and “Downward dog” can be practiced alone or with a group and can be an activity that the whole family can enjoy, and benefit from. Susan Strauss, a Park City mom whose child has practiced yoga through an after school Kids’ Yoga program said, “Yoga has benefited my child beyond the actual classes to not only enhance her flexibility but the skills she has developed have helped her with her overall ability to focus and concentrate.”

So, science aside, if you’re looking for an activity that helps your children foster physical, mental and intellectual acuity, give yoga a try. It’s an “OHM-azing tm” developmental aid in growing your kids’ health and well-being.

Randi Jo Taurel is a Kids Yoga instructor in The Park City area; yoga studios, private, Charter and public schools, birthday parties & camps throughout Summit County.