6 reasons to get your kids into yoga

Published on 22 September 2017

6 reasons to get your kids into yoga

It’s never too early to start practising yoga. That’s the message being embraced by the growing numbers of parents across Australia who have enrolled their children in school holiday and after school yoga classes.

Now, with not-for-profit meditation program Smiling Mind campaigning to include mindfulness in the national school curriculum by 2020, we take a look at the benefits of yoga for kids, from their school life to maintaining mindfulness at home. And it’s not just anecdotal evidence from enlightened yogi masters – as research shows, the physical and mental exercises of yoga can have a real impact on your child’s wellbeing.

1. Yoga can improve kids’ fitness

We’re pretty familiar with yoga as an essential part of many adults’ fitness regimes, but what about children? Over the last few years, a growing number of studies in Australia and overseas have pointed to the physical benefits of yoga for young people, and even weighed up the value of a mandated school-based yoga program.

With growing concerns about our younger generations being stuck on the couch after school, the physical side of yoga is at the forefront of its potential benefits. Just a little stretching and yoga-based activity can go a long way.

2. It encourages family bonding

According to Angela Tonkin, a family yoga instructor with Be Happy Yoga, the practice can help parents and children to bond in an active environment away from the TV screen. 

“Family yoga is an amazing opportunity for both parents and kids to connect, communicate and play,” she says. “Family life is busy with so many responsibilities and there is not much time to connect. During our classes, we come together without mobile phones, no iPads or TV, no other duties – it’s just you and your children. You might be surprised, but that does not happen often in the 21st century!”

3. It keeps kids calm at school

Jade Malinovski, a kindergarten teacher turned yoga instructor in South Australia’s Riverland region, started out running school holiday workshops. Now she hosts regular school classes at three locations, and classroom teachers are noticing the difference in their students’ willingness to learn.

“I had a teacher say to me that when the kids walked back into the classroom after a yoga session, she noticed the class was more calm and relaxed,” Jade told the ABC. “That’s what keeps me going with this.”

4. Yoga can reduce bullying

Bullying can be one of the most destructive parts of a child’s experience at school, and Michigan researchers have recently established a link between yoga, stress reduction and exposure to bullying behaviour. Stress has been shown to affect children’s social skills, so being able to reduce that stress through yoga can go miles in reducing their chances of being bullied. By combatting stress, yoga gives children the tools to reduce anxiety and improve their social experience.

5. It can help children with autism

Yoga might be relatively new to Australian classrooms, but school-based yoga programs have been established in the US for several years. One of these is Get Ready To Learn, which was introduced in New York City in 2008 and has since spread overseas.

In 2012, the Get Ready To Learn program became the basis of academic research into the benefits of tailored yoga classes for children with autism spectrum disorders. These students showed a positive change in their behaviour, as measured by their teachers. While it’s important to note that this yoga program was designed specifically around the needs of individuals, the classroom and behavioural benefits were clear to see.

6. Classes are modified for kids

There’s no shortage of variation in adult yoga options, from Bikram to Hatha and even paddleboard yoga, but it’s not all suitable for kids. Luckily, the exercises you’ll find at a family or child-friendly yoga class have been modified for smaller bodies – and they’re usually more energetic, too.

“Yoga for kids is very different to [yoga for] adults; it's all play-based and children use these games and activities to navigate the tricky world we live in,” Jade explained to the ABC. “It needs to be relevant to them or they won't like it, they won't engage.”
Whatever your child’s needs, giving them an early start in yoga can help them navigate their social lives, improve their fitness and increase their learning ability. And when keeping your kids active is more important than ever, introducing them to the yoga lifestyle is a great way to achieve your family goals.