24 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Mindfulness and Yoga for Kids

Teetering on wobbly legs, with chubby little hands pressed together at the heart and eyes squeezed dramatically shut. There’s no question that a toddler doing yoga is precious. Without a doubt, this has led to the growing number of little kids in downward dog to pop up all over social media. But do the benefits of yoga and mindfulness go beyond providing a fun activity and a cute photo op? A growing number of physicians, child psychiatrists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and teachers say yes.

Emerging research supports the fact that the practice of yoga and mindfulness is immensely beneficial to both the physical and emotional health of kids.

The Research About Mindfulness and Yoga for Kids:  

Yoga and mindfulness provide incredible tools for kids to improve physical health and practice positive coping skills through all phases of life. However, a unique benefit is available to kids who are introduced to these skills at a young age and here’s why:

In early childhood, the brain builds more neural connections, at a faster rate, than any other time throughout the lifespan. This creates the perfect environment for learning. Dr. Gurjeet Birdee, MD, a pediatrician and assistant professor of internal medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, explains “kids can condition the stress response when they are younger in a way that may inform how they react to stress later in life. So, giving them tools to help manage anxiety can be very useful”. 1 Tools learned during this sensitive time of brain development can have a lasting impact on kids emotional and physical well being.

Yoga and mindfulness equip kids with the tools that can help manage anxiety and inform how kids respond to stress later in life.

Yoga and mindfulness equip kids with these tools. Apart from the more widely known benefits of improved balance, strength, endurance, and flexibility, yoga and mindfulness have been shown to improve focus, memory, self-esteem, and behavior as well as reducing anxiety and stress in children. Marlynn Wei, MD from Harvard Medical School, states that “emerging research studies also suggest that yoga can help children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD) by improving the core symptoms of ADHD, including inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It can also boost school performance in children with ADHD.” 2

A research study from Columbia University echos these findings. They found improved academic performance in over 90% of kids with ADHD who participated in a 6-week yoga program.1Yoga benefits kids without ADHD as well. Researchers also saw that yoga increased the chemical levels of dopamine in the brain, a chemical linked to attention, learning, and movement. 1 

Benefits Of Mindfulness and Yoga for Kids

Incredibly enough, the advantages of yoga and mindfulness don’t end there. They have been shown to positively impact every aspect of the body and mind, from digestion to metabolism.3 Several additional benefits include:

  1. Increases emotional intelligence- the ability to regulate and manage difficult emotions3
  2. Increases curiosity and creativity 
  3. Encourages spatial awareness and coordination  
  4. Encourages self-compassion and compassion for others
  5. Greatly enhances what psychologists call “flourishing”- the opposite of depression, avoidance, and disengagement, and teaches “checking in” with oneself and engagement in the environment 3
  6. Fosters cooperation  
  7. Teaches relaxation skills and deep breathing
  8. Cultivates gratitude
  9. Provides a non-competitive physical activity
  10. Improves digestion through twisting and relaxation
  11. Improves sleep
  12. Enhances metabolism and immunity due to decreased stress response3
  13. Improves circulation

And as earlier explained, yoga and mindfulness benefits kids in these ways:

  1. Encourages self-esteem and self-acceptance
  2. Increases balance
  3. Improves endurance
  4. Improves academic performance and classroom behavior2
  5. Reduces stress and anxiety3
  6. Increases focus and concentration
  7. Improves physical strength and aerobic capacity
  8. Enhances memory3
  9. Decreases inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity in kids with ADHD2
  10. Increases the level of the chemical dopamine1
  11. Enhances flexibility and helps maintain flexibility as kids grow

Benefits for Caregivers

What’s more, introducing children to yoga and mindfulness can have a hugely positive impact on the caregiver as well. In his book, Growing Up Mindful, psychiatrist Christopher Willard states “some of the most exciting research in mindfulness shows that these practices are helpful not only for the kids in your life. They can also help you be calmer, less burnt out, less reactive, more present, and more effective as a parent or partner or professional”.3

Introducing kids to mindfulness can help you be calmer, less burnt out, less reactive, more present, and more effective as a parent.

And Yoga is Fun!

There is no question that yoga and mindfulness can be incredibly beneficial to your child. But can parents get their kids actually to engage in a meaningful way? In most cases, yes! Kids yoga is fun and feels good, helping kids feel empowered, happier and more confident. It’s packed with laughter, silliness, and play, making many kids want to come back again and again.

Getting Started

For many parents, this research makes yoga and mindfulness something they want their kids involved in. But, busy schedules and limited resources, doesn’t always make this easy, especially for those with younger kids. Grade school-aged kids have an increased chance of exposure since many schools have begun bringing these skills into the classroom. However, kids too young for grade school or in preschools without a program are left with few, if any, options.

Parents that find themselves in this situation, but don’t want their kids to miss out, have seen enormous success in bringing yoga and mindfulness into their homes. Several yoga videos and books have adapted these skills for young kids and assist families who wish to practice yoga and mindfulness with their kids at home.

At Yogamentary, we believe this far more than another extracurricular activity, but provide kids with essential skills to help set them up for increased emotional and physical health throughout the lifespan. With that in mind, we have created an extensive collection of fun and engaging yoga videos, breathing exercises, and age-appropriate guided meditations adapted for young kids and designed to be done at home.

A free starter package, including a 5-minute yoga video, a breathing exercise, and a guided meditation can be downloaded HERE. For our complete collection, find us at yogmamentary.com.

Every child is different, and there is no single activity or practice that all kids will respond to. We hope that, through providing a broad number of varying options, families can experiment with what works best for their unique kids, keeping what does, and tossing what doesn’t. It’s through this process, we hope every child can gain access and exposure to the life-changing benefits of kids yoga and mindfulness.

References

  1. Stephens, B. (2014, September). The power of yoga. Staying Healthy. Retrieved from https://yogaplayhouse.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Parents-kidsyoga.pdf
  2. Wei, M. (2016, August). More than just a game: yoga for school-aged children. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/more-than-just-a-game-yoga-for-school-age-children-201601299055
  3. Willard, C. (2016). Growing Up Mindful: Essential practices to help children, teens, and families find balance, calm and resilience. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.

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