Young Yogis Take to the Mats

Age-specific sessions can help kids cope with life's stresses plus put them on a path of lifetime activity.

Joan Westlake

HealthKey.com contributor

April 22, 2010


Children in the yoga studio may seem anything but a peaceful idea. But age-specific sessions can help kids cope with life's stresses plus put them on a path of lifetime activity. Maureen Priest, director of the MOYO Studio in Skippack, Pa., says that over the past few years, she's seen a steady increase in her youth classes.

A spokesperson for the Yoga Alliance, she explains, "Parents have noticed the benefits, especially in this stressed-out society, and have asked us to bring yoga to their children's classrooms. It does affect children just as much as it does adults. Schools, gyms, hospitals, chiropractors, therapists and other health professionals have been recommending yoga not only for adults, but for children as well, to help them cope with stress in school."

Priest points out that children learn through movement. It is their nature. Yoga offers that, while at the same time, strengthening bodies and providing play time. Yoga can help in school by teaching breathing techniques that can be used to quiet brain and nervous systems while taking tests.

Yoga is beneficial for children of all ages and it is especially beneficial for children with special needs, according to the MOYO studio director. It helps children with challenges such as ADD, ADHD, Autism and Cerebral Palsy to focus, concentrate, build self-esteem and stimulate creativity. Priest says that less stimulating yoga poses helps children with ADD and ADHD focus and calm the brain. For children with Down syndrome, yoga breathing exercises help their nervous systems. And yoga helps stabilize joints and strengthen muscles in a fun way.

Yoga for children is different than the adult version. Priest says that kid's yoga should be done in a more playful and creative manner. Games, music, dance, story telling and arts & crafts help children to understand how to use yoga in class and out.

"Children are interested in yoga because they can jump in right away and do the poses," says Priest. "We use familiar names that help children associate the pose with the animal or object. For example: Tree, Down Facing Dog, Cat/Cow, Triangle or Lizard. Also, we don't have children hold the poses for extended periods of time. Children have a very short attention span so by gradually increasing the time as they practice more and more, they are not aware that their focus and concentration is increasing. For relaxation, a guided meditation helps children release their daily stress."

Joyful Yoga in Chandler, Ariz. offers Pajama Yoga on Saturday evenings for children 5- to 10-years-old that includes a story time and a bit of time for parents to go enjoy their own yoga session. Sunday Family Yoga is just $10 for the entire family.

Owner of Joyful Yoga and instructor Syd Hoffman says, "I think that it is important that you set the example that you exercise with your children. And, we encourage people to bring their kids to all our classes, usually from the ages of 10 and up, but we have some 9-year-olds. As long as the kids are mature enough, they are great at yoga."