Sometimes children can feel stressed and anxious and keeping them calm can prove to be quite a challenge. For those early years practitioners that are interested in trying new tools, yoga can definitely offer an alternative and a great introduction to mindfulness.
Many adults engage in yoga, with a large number of classes in communities and online. But there is also a growing number of people using yoga with children, with schools and nurseries bringing yoga teachers into their settings. But is it worth it? Let’s have a look at some of the benefits:
Yoga and mindfulness exercises are increasingly being used as calming techniques for children. Some children need support to find calmness, either because they have become dis-regulated or are being very overactive. The movement and breathing exercises in yoga encourage a slowing down but also a concentration which can help bring some calmness to children.
A key part of yoga involves breathing techniques. When we are stressed and anxious our breathing often becomes shallow and our heart rate quickens. When we calm ourselves through our breath it brings an increase of oxygen into the blood, which lowers our heart rate. Learning how to calm ourselves through our breath is an important technique for children which they can call on throughout their life.
Throughout yoga exercises, you are encouraged to be aware of what is happening in the body, what you are feeling, what you are noticing. Yoga practice encourages a curiosity around the body and awareness of feelings. It invites a mindful noticing of how our bodies are responding to what is going on around us and can help us see where we might be tense or recognise how anxiety, stress or worry feels in our body. These are important life skills and support an emotional understanding for children to learn.
As young children learn new yoga poses and experience moving their bodies in new ways, this can help them grow confidence in what their body can do and its strength. It can also support co-ordination and balance.
If you want to try yoga with children, it is always important to join in with them! If we model to them that we can’t always do the poses, it encourages the children to see it’s ok to get things wrong, but to give things a go and to have fun by learning together. We can also use these moments to talk about how we are feeling and noticing our emotions and how that feels in the body.
Kinderly have teamed-up with YOGADOO, the award-winning children’s yoga and meditation company offering early years practitioners free yoga videos for children aged 2-5 that you can share with your families. Here’s one of them:
Sonia Mainstone-Cotton is an early years participation trainer, consultant and author, specialised in wellbeing and mental health. She’s the author of “Promoting Young Children’s Emotional Health and Wellbeing” and “Promoting Emotional Wellbeing in Early Years Staff”.