When we think of introducing kids to yoga, we normally consider the most obvious physical health benefits of the exercise regimen, like increased flexibility, balance, improved connection between mind and body, and the sheer fun of folding into different poses. All of these are fantastic reasons to get your child to try a few poses on the mat. But yoga isn’t only useful for parents and kids on a physical level. As a style of movement, yoga teaches kids several life lessons on and off the mat.
We know that yoga positively impacts mental health in practitioners of all ages. Introducing children to yoga at an early age can give them a positive coping skill for mental health issues down the line. As we know, mental health struggles can lead to substance abuse and other issues in later years, so it’s important to set a solid foundation at a young stage of life.
1 – Don’t let fear hold you back.
Yoga instructor Joan White shares in Yoga Journal that learning how to avoid letting fear hold us back is an important takeaway from the yoga mat. Kids are usually less fearful than their adult counterparts, but this is still a helpful idea to internalize early. If a child can master a challenging pose that requires bravery and trust in themselves, such as the crow or the eagle pose, they’ll go a long way in facing their fears in other areas.
2 – Stay mentally flexible.
According to a contributor on Huffington Post, increased physical flexibility is not the only perk of regular sessions of yoga. Although children are accustomed to following rules at all times–something that is helpful for keeping them safe and healthy–the flexibility of yoga will teach them to test the boundaries of life in a safe, controlled environment. They will also learn that bending the rules too can lead to getting hurt, falling down, and feeling uncomfortable. This is also an important lesson in flexibility–understanding the limits of where we bend and where we break.
3 – Fail gracefully and often.
As doyou.com explains, one of the main benefits of yoga is how it humbles those who practice it. As the pressures of life increase, children might fear failing and do their best to avoid it. By falling on the mat and getting back up again every time, they see that failing is a natural part of life that only lasts for a moment. The failure will sting at first, but kids will see that they can grow beyond failure in the rest of their lives if they practice failing on the mat first.
4 – Go with the flow.
As discussed on BeliefNet, an easy-going disposition is one of the greatest gifts that regular yoga practice can offer. It’s cliche, but absolutely true; going with the flow of a yoga set shows kids how to go with the flow of life. Some transitions are jarring and unexpected, while some transitions in life are predictable and smooth. Similar to going from a plank to a downward-facing dog, sometimes the flow of life just makes natural sense. Other times, it can take a few tries to make a transition smooth, as with going from a standing pose such as the mountain pose to a seated pose such as the staff position.
5 – Slow down and notice your feelings.
As HuffPost Life discusses, yoga can teach us to take it easy and process what’s going on both inside and outside ourselves. When kids learn how to slow down, it can help them regulate their emotions. This skill will serve them in the classroom, in extracurricular activities, and throughout the other facets of life. Slowing down and processing is part of the process of yoga. It’s built into every practice. If we don’t slow down during a yoga session, we might hurt ourselves or others as we lose balance and fall out of proper form. Life is a lot like that. So it’s good for kids to learn that slow and steady is better than fast and hasty
6 – Patience is crucial.
As Elite Daily tells us, one of the beautiful life lessons that yoga teaches kids is patience. When babies come into this world, they grow accustomed to having all of their needs instantly met by their caretakers. As life goes on, kids learn that things take time and there’s nothing they can do to speed them up. Yoga becomes a wonderful teacher of patience for children who struggle with getting easily frustrated.
In yoga, we need to find stillness sometimes or wait to get to our favorite pose. We need to be patient with ourselves as our bodies adapt to new modes of movement and learn how to stretch beyond their original flexibility level. Sometimes we just need to learn to wait for one yoga class to leave the yoga studio and for the yoga teacher to sanitize surfaces before we can begin our yoga class. These are all great examples of ways that yoga teaches kids patience in a gentle manner.
Yoga offers a variety of unexpected life lessons to all ages of yogis, including children who are young and older children. Yoga teaches kids valuable lessons like letting go of fear, staying flexible, and coping with failure. These aren’t the only lessons that regular yoga practice can give to kids and their parents, but they are a good place to start.
Written by Andrea Poteet-Bell