Many a mom has become a yoga aficionado, and yoga studios are full of moms stretching and breathing their way to centered and calmer parenting. It can be a natural extension of the commitment to yoga practice to want to share it with your kids. But is your child right for yoga? As much as you want to share the benefits of yoga practice, before you go buying your child a yoga mat and taking them to the studio, consider whether yoga is really right for your child.
Yoga is becoming more popular for kids; it's even on the curriculum for some high school physical education programs! Just like yoga builds strength and flexibility and can aid in relaxation and a feeling of centeredness in adults, so can it have those benefits for kids. Particularly for young people who exhibit higher anxiety than other kids their age, yoga can have a real benefit. That said, just as running or even soccer isn't right for every child, yoga may or may not be right for your child.
Whether yoga is truly appropriate for your child will depend on several things, your child's temperament and the availability of professional guidance in an age-appropriate manner among them.
Some kids just don't want to do yoga -- and yoga is certainly not a practice one can push! It's not a competition! Pushing your child to do yoga when they just don't want to and building resentment pretty much defeats the purpose. As much as you love it, if your child doesn't want to do it, you're out of luck. Let it go -- for now, anyway.
If your child is interested, professional guidance from well-trained yogis is important for helping a child's still growing body perform the appropriate moves and stretches. The occasional loss of coordination in a child due to a growth spurt can impact how the body moves in yoga, too -- and you well know that even adults can injure themselves in gentle yoga practice. Where possible, if you want to introduce your child to yoga, find a child-focused class with a yogi you trust. Barring that, talk to the instructors at your yoga studio about classes that would be appropriate for a younger child and/or classes you can take together.
Can your child be a little serious about yoga practice? Yoga time is not the same as a trip to the playground! Sure, some of the poses are a little silly, and adults laugh every now and again when they fall out of tree pose, but constant laughter and thinking the whole thing is a game will likely disrupt others working on their poses. If your child can't be appropriately respectful of the process and practice of yoga -- even in a kid-centered yoga class -- maybe it's too soon to take him to the yoga studio.
While some yoga studios encourage children of at least a certain age, it is with stipulations that the child is really willing and open to the whole practice of yoga.
All that said, just because your child isn't ready for a full hour yoga practice doesn't mean you have to give up on it completely in regard to your child. With guidance from yogis, you can learn ways to incorporate yoga stretches into your life and your child's life.
Maybe it's a bedtime wind down set of gentle stretches and poses, or a morning wake up set? Maybe it's some specific breathing and simple movements to help diffuse frustration over a bad day at school. In fact, introducing yoga concepts in these small ways may make it easier to introduce yoga in full later when your child is more able embrace the practice.
Yoga is a wonderful, restorative exercise, but it's not for everyone. As gung ho as you are for yoga in your own life, carefully consider whether it's right as a family activity. Yoga might not be right for your child…yet.
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