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How yoga makes kids smarter

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Yoga eases stress in kids

Between school, soccer, swimming and homework, kids are pulled in a million directions these days. We hear all the time about how this generation is overscheduled and stressed out, resulting in poor concentration at school and fatigue. Beyond just cutting back on activities, what can parents do to give kids balance in their life? In a word: Yoga.

Toddler Girl Doing Yoga

Yoga, the practice of postures and mediation, is catching on -- and not just with adults. People of all ages are taking to the mat to redirect their energies and find balance in their lives. Yes, that includes kids. From infants to teens, yoga programs directed at the youngest generation are popping up all over.

For kids facing changing bodies and demanding lives, yoga can provide a much-needed method of dealing with hard situations. With myriad benefits, yoga is something that kids can begin young and carry through life with them. What do you need to know?

Yoga benefits for kids

Yoga can provide much-needed centering techniques for kids with busy lives, experts say."The benefits are many and basically it's not only settling the foundation for a life of health and well being but it gives them the tools to deal with stressful life (events)," says Laurie Jordan, who manages children's programs for The Kaia Yoga Complete Wellness Centers. Jordan says that kids can use the yoga techniques they learn in situations that involve overscheduling, peer issues and more.

Kids, whose lives seem to be always going, can find relief for their stretched minds and changing bodies as well. "Yoga I think is an essential tool for kids to stay more balanced and slow down," says Gina Norman, who owns Kaia Yoga with her husband. Norman said that yoga can also balance the impacts of growth spurts, allowing kids growing bodies to stretch.

Yoga can also increase concentration skills. "As we engage in specific movements, our bodies send messages through our nerves connecting to our brain, providing a clearer and more open flow of knowledge, breaking down barriers put up by stress," says Candace Morano, a certified yoga teacher and educational kinesiologist from New York.

Even the body stresses of modern kids, such as the impacts of heavy backpacks and days spent sitting at school desks, can be helped with yoga, says Norman.

Classes for kids

So, how young can kids start practicing yoga? Jordan joked that they can begin in utero ... and she's kind of right. Prenatal yoga has been popular for expecting moms for years. There are also classes where infants and toddlers practice yogas with their parents, as well as ones for older kids. "I think there has become a trend – classes are growing," says Jordan. "I think people are interested in getting yoga into schools (as well)."

A great thing about yoga for kids? Pretty much anyone can join in. "The other thing about yoga for kids is that every kid can do it. You don't have to be the best athlete" says Jordan.

Some parents, like Marla Levie, take yoga classes with their older kids too. "I'm not great, but I find it so relaxing," says Levie of her yoga practice. Her older daughter began taking yoga classes in the eighth grade at a local YMCA and her younger daughter took them as afterschool activities. Now, they all go together. "Whenever I am about to leave for my yoga class, if they are available, they ask to come with me. My 16 year old even received her own yoga mat as a present at her sweet 16 party. Before we started with the actual classes, my daughter's friends used to come over, and I'd put on relaxing music, and we all do poses," says Levie.

Kid-friendly poses

Even if your child isn't ready to take a yoga class, they can begin practicing at home. Norman says that Upward-Facing Dog and Downward-Facing Dog are great for young people, and every kid-friendly. The Tree Pose is another great one for kids. "If a kid can do that, there is a sense of prise that goes with that," says Jordan.

Want to learn how to do these poses? Check out YouTube videos on Upward-Facing Dog, Downward-Facing Dog and Tree Pose.

More tips on raising balanced kids:

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