Healthy Beginnings

Yoga and Meditation for Children: The Benefits That Parents and Kids Will Love

girl doing basic yoga in studio

“Simon says” is a memorable child’s game that we’ve all played in the classroom or at home with friends and loved ones, helping us exercise listening skills and learn the importance of following directions. But, what if you could play a similar game that encourages listening skills, instills the importance of following directions AND improves balance, strength and awareness? “Yogi says” just might be the new replacement for “Simon says,” as recent research suggests that yoga and mindfulness have been shown to improve both physical and mental health in school-age children. Therefore, the next time you and your children or students are up for a game of “Simon says,” incorporate yoga poses and transform “Simon says” into your own yogi practice:

“Yogi says”*

One person is selected as the yogi. The other players must do the yoga poses that the yogi tells them to do if the instruction starts with “Yogi says.” If the yogi doesn’t use “Yogi says,” then players do not do the pose. Keep changing the person who is yogi, so that everyone gets a turn.

Yoga is becoming increasingly popular among children in the United States, according to research reported by the Harvard Medical School. A national survey found that 3 percent of U.S. children (1.7 million) did yoga as of 2012 – that’s 400,000 more children than in 2007.

Jeanne Robinson, owner of Sierra Springs Clinical Hypnotherapy and Blue Lotus Yoga & Meditation in Reno, has been teaching children’s yoga for more than 4 years. She incorporates storytelling, music and coloring into each practice to foster interest, creativity and engagement.

“What is really cool about children’s yoga is it activates their creativity, and they’re just allowed to be themselves – there’s no competition,” she said. “It builds con dence, creativity, focus and helps them with their environment and the outside world.”

Yoga can improve a child’s focus, memory, self-esteem, behavior and academic performance, and can even reduce anxiety and stress, according to research reported by the Harvard Medical School. Yoga can also help children with attention de cit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by improving inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity – the core symptoms of ADHD. Many schools are working to integrate yoga into their physical education programs, and parents are encouraged to integrate yoga into their at- home routines.

“I make sure that the parents attend class with their children,” Jeanne said. “I want them there to see what I’m doing, so that maybe they can take some of this home.”

Jeanne’s 5-year-old daughter began her yoga practice in the womb, and attends Jeanne’s yoga classes and even meditates at home.

“I think she’s really proud and con dent to show other kids what she knows,” Jeanne said. “It’s taught her a lot of focus and concentration – she’s very grounded and she also has so much compassion for other kids. … She will sometimes sit with me after we do yoga together in the living room, and she’ll close her eyes and she’ll do Oms with me – she loves doing Oms. And, Oms are great because they quiet the mind. Just that sound and that vibration could completely bring someone that’s hyper or scattered to be more grounded in that moment.”

Jeanne’s children’s yoga classes incorporate both asana (physical posture) and pranayama (focus on breath) to enhance the mind-body connection, building strength and con dence in the body, and awareness in the breath and mind.

For more information about children’s yoga, or to contact Jeanne at Blue Lotus Yoga & Meditation, call 775-790-6377 or visit www.HappyFlowYoga.com. For a list of article references, visit www.HBMag.com.

At-Home Yoga and Meditation Games

Mirror, mirror.*

This game is a good warm-up exercise to increase focus.
• One person starts as the leader. The leader chooses a pose to do and shows it to the others.
• The other players copy the leader’s pose as if they are looking into a mirror.
• Change the leader with each round of poses, so that everyone has a turn at being the leader.

Red light, green light yoga*

One person is chosen as the stoplight. He or she stands at the front of the room. The other players are the “cars,” and they start at the opposite wall. The stoplight starts the game by calling “green light!” The other players then use yoga poses to move forward. When the stoplight calls “red light!,” each player needs to be in a yoga pose and remain still. Everyone takes a turn being the stoplight.

Loving kindness meditation*

• Find a comfortable seated position or lie down.
• Close your eyes and think about someone you love.
• Hold them tight in your heart and continue to think about that person.

*These yoga games and exercises were derived from the Harvard Health Blog article, “More than just a game: Yoga for school-age children,” written by Marlynn Wei, M.D., J.D.