Your Best Kids: Benefits of Yoga for Children and Youth with Various Needs
I am so very excited to finally launch Your Best Kids - a specialized Yoga program for children and Youth ages 6-16 with various needs. This program is for those children who may need additional support for a variety of reasons, including diagnosis of ADHD, FASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder or Sensory Processing Disorder. Please visit the Your Best Kids page for more information and feel free to contact me with any questions! Keep reading to learn much more about the benefits of Yoga for children with various needs.
Yoga has been practiced for centuries, with the benefits being both experienced and documented by practitioners. Recently, yoga and mindfulness have become even more popular, not only for those who want to spend an hour moving their body, but also for those looking for alternative solutions when battling depression, anxiety, stress and various injuries. As Yoga has become more mainstream, we are seeing an increase in Yoga classes aimed at children; in schools, daycare centres and Yoga studios. While Yoga is well known for its overall physical benefits for children and adults alike – increasing flexibility, improving balance, strengthening large muscle groups and promoting coordination and fine and gross motor skills – there is increasing evidence to show its benefits for emotional and mental health as well. Listed below are just some of the benefits children and youth with various needs may experience from a Yoga and mindfulness practice.
Self-Regulation and Coping Skills:
Self-regulation refers to both unconscious and conscious processes that affect a persons ability to control responses. It is a skill that has overarching effects on an individual’s ability to tolerate unmet desires, handle disappointments and failures, and work towards success. Self-regulation does not mean “obedience”, but rather a child’s ability to navigate feelings, emotions, impulses and behaviors. Some Children with ADHD, FASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder, may benefit from Yoga as a way of developing self-regulation skills. Studies have shown that Yoga stimulates a persons parasympathetic nervous system which helps us feel calm and make more rational choices. It also uses intentional movement through the Yoga poses to connect children to their body, increasing self-awareness, and encouraging them to slow down and focus on how they feel. Introduction of breathing techniques can also be used by the child when faced with difficult emotions, and anxieties, building coping skills they can use for the rest of their lives.
Focus and Attention:
According to recent research, yoga was found to help children with attention and hyperactivity disorders by improving the “core symptoms” of ADHD – such as inattention, hyperactivity/impulsivity, and anxiety. Consider a balancing posture, such as Tree Pose - which requires the person to balance on one foot - and the amount of focus and attention that needs to be paid in order to hold this pose for even a few seconds. As children practice yoga consistently, their ability to hold focus and attention can improve, and this can spill over into increased ability to focus in other settings, perhaps leading to increased success in the classroom setting.
Yoga is a wonderful compliment to more traditional forms of sensory integration/sensory processing therapies. Some specific benefits of Yoga for Sensory processing include the ability to engage the relaxation response through forward bending Yoga poses, improved body and spatial awareness, benefits for the tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive systems, and the impact of breath awareness on the nervous system. Additionally, various Yoga props can be utilised based on the individual child’s sensory needs. For example, props like sandbags, bolsters and blocks, can provide deep pressure assistance for those who benefit from this.
Yoga can be a great addition to traditional supports and therapies that are helpful to children and youth with various needs. It is an inclusive practice that encourages self-acceptance and that can be modified to meet a child where they are at, building on their strengths and increasing their self-confidence.