I imagine not many of us born before the millennium ever remember a time in school where we stopped doing class work for a meditation break. It has always been acknowledged that children and teens of all ages need time to stretch their bodies, socialize with peers, work off some pent-up energy and take a mental break from the often monotonous tasks of schoolwork. And let’s be honest even as an adult, it gets pretty difficult and boring to sit at a desk and stare at a computer screen for 8 hours all day long. Traditionally recess has been the designated time for socializing and playing, however, kids yoga and mindfulness has now become a popular activity for many schools across the nation. So what is all the hype about and why should you care if your kid learns how to practice yoga, meditation, and mindfulness or not?
- A less chaotic classroom
Research shows that teachers who incorporate meditation into their lesson plans report the classroom environment becomes more peaceful and that their students are more able to express compassion to one another. While I am not a teacher, I have worked in schools and treatment programs where I have facilitated group counseling to youngsters and can only imagine how much a more peaceful environment helps teachers with behavior management.
- An easier bedtime routine
Yes, it is true! Parents have said that a yoga and meditation practice has helped their kids wind down at bedtime. And if you are wondering they even sell a yoga bedtime storybook called “Good Night Yoga“. Other options to incorporate yoga and meditation into your new bedtime routine include purchasing the audio cd, “Bedtime Meditations for Kids” or downloading the DreamyKid App which includes affirmations, guided meditations as well as relaxing music, lullabies and nature sounds.
- A less stressed kid
We don’t always remember our childhood as being the most stressful time of our life and so it is easy to forget that children get stressed out too. Perhaps you remember your first bad grade, when your mom told you “no” to that candy bar in the check-out line or when your crush found out you liked them– all of it seemed like the end of the world at the time. These are prime examples of situations that cause children and adolescents to get stressed out. According to the Yoga Alliance, yoga has been shown to reduce the physical effects of stress on our bodies and lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Can you imagine if they had started teaching yoga and meditation in schools “back in our day?”
- Fewer temper tantrums in the store
Alright, I don’t have scientific research to back up this specific claim. However, a study in the journal Consciousness and Cognition found that just one session of meditation reduced the physical signs of anger. Wondering how yoga, meditation, and mindfulness help kids and teens regulate their emotions? It is because all of these practices teach them how to become self-aware of their bodies and emotions by simply paying more attention to how they are feeling throughout the day. It is the same with adults, once we are able to catch ourselves getting worked up over something, it is easier for us to control our emotions and behaviors.
- Improved academic performance
When kids and teens practice yoga poses, it teaches them how to focus on their balance and their breathing. In return, kids’ concentration is improved. This is especially helpful for children with ADHD who are hyper, inattentive and impulsive. Additionally, practicing meditation has been shown to help children and adolescents reduce their test anxiety.
- Less technology, more confidence
Lastly, in today’s society where we all have our cell phones attached to our hands, it is important to teach and model for kids and teens that there is more to life than our social media profiles. By practicing mindfulness, children learn to focus on the present moment instead of getting too caught up or worried about their next Instagram post. Yoga builds children’s self-esteem and teaches them that it is okay to make mistakes. Kids need to know that life is not perfect even when it is portrayed that way on the internet. Sometimes in yoga (and life), you fall out of poses, but you can always take a deep breath and try again!
— Amanda Schofield, MA is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern and Certified Kids Yoga Teacher through Kidding Around Yoga with a private practice in Oviedo, FL