We’re turning over the mic today to a mom that we respect and is very in line with our way of thinking. Rachel O’Conner is a mom, yoga instructor and writer, and she’s all about teaching her kids (and others) how to be physically active and mindful as they grow. We’ve shared before about the benefits of self-care, traveling for health, and even about traveling for yoga, but Rachel is sharing specifically about the benefits of doing yoga with kids.
The Benefits of Doing Yoga with Kids
We don’t need to sit here and tell you about the health benefits of yoga such as increased flexibility, better mental health, reduced anxiety and stress, protection from injury, and overall better fitness. Those are just a few of them. But what about the benefits of doing yoga, not just by yourself, but with someone else? Namely, your kids.
Doing yoga with kids has a number of benefits, both emotional and physical. Here are some of our favorites.
Yoga decreases stress & anxiety
And as a parent, you are the primary influence on your child of what is healthy and good. If you are always running around and stressed, then they will come to interpret that behavior as encouraged.
Our kids live in a busy world of school pressures, homework, after school activities, even media, like video games and television programs, and we may not realize the stressful impact of these influences. In reality, even young children may face more pressures and daily stressors than we realize.
Encouraging your child to do yoga, and practicing it with them, can help balance out these pressures and ease stress. In fact, multiple studies have shown that yoga can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, making it one of the top forms of natural anxiety relief.
Furthermore, yoga helps teach its students reliable techniques for relaxation and inner-fulfillment, which can help set your child up to navigate life’s challenges better. By doing yoga with kids, you’ll be able to help them set a strong foundation for emotional health that they can carry with them throughout the rest of their life.
Tip: working yoga with kids into a homeschooling regime is very easy and a great way to address the same concerns with stress and tension that kids in public schools face. School is a big stressor for most kids. – Rob
Physical & developmental benefits of yoga with kids
There’s no doubt that yoga offers significant health benefits, and your child can experience these as well. Physically, yoga enhances flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness in kids. It promotes physical strength in children by helping them learn to use all of their muscles in new ways.
In addition, another significant health benefit of yoga is improved balance and coordination. Practicing yoga promotes overall dexterity and increased motor skills, which can aid young children who are still growing and developing. Overall, by doing yoga with kids, you can help teach them how to use their bodies in a healthy way.
Tip: we do a lot of hiking as a family and often the trails are slippery and uneven. As we’ve focused more on doing yoga with kids, they’ve both become more agile and aware of their body-space, making our outdoor adventures easier and more fun. – Rob
In addition to physical and mental health benefits, exercise of any sort offers the perk of improved self-confidence. Conquering new physical challenges leads to feelings of pride and achievement, for both adults and children. For example, when a child learns how to master a pose, or sees physical improvements in flexibility and balance, they experience increased feelings of confidence and self-esteem.
According to YogaJournal.com, practicing yoga at an early age “encourages self-esteem and body awareness with a physical activity that’s noncompetitive.” It encourages cooperation and compassion, instead of opposition. For these reasons, practicing yoga with your kids can help promote healthy body image early on in their young lives.
Tip: raising two kids who are very different stages in growth and development, they do many of the same activities together despite their skill level, and EVERYTHING is a competition. We’ve found that doing yoga with kids has created a fun time together without anything to compete over… most of the time. Leave it to our kids to turn something as peaceful as yoga into a contest. – Rob
Increased play & imagination capacity
Although yoga is considered by adults to be either a form of exercise or relaxation (or both), for kids, yoga truly serves as form a play that helps them connect more deeply with themselves and the world around them.
The postures of yoga naturally lend themselves to play and imagination, and you can heighten this by doing yoga with kids yourself! Incorporate probing, imaginative questions into your practice to challenge your child to expand their mind. For example, when practicing cobra pose, ask your child to pretend they’re a snake, arching up towards the sun. In downward dog pose, ask them why they think this pose is called downward dog. Do they feel like a dog when they practice this pose? What else would a dog do? You get the idea.
There are so many possibilities for encouraging imaginative play through yoga. Practice yoga with your kids to create a safe environment where they are free to be themselves and explore. You’ll all have fun doing it together.
Tip: we love Cosmic Kids Yoga through Amazon Prime for a guided, kid-friendly yoga program that incorporates yoga poses with story telling. It’s a great program that I even enjoy doing as an adult. – Rob
Improved attention span & focus
Yoga can be difficult to practice with kids – it can be tough to hold their attention long enough to teach them the benefits of quiet, stillness, peace, balance, and focus. Instead of fighting a child’s natural tendency to talk and move, use yoga to embrace it. According to Parents.com, the act of practicing poses “encourages children to clear their mind and focus on the effort.” Through working to achieve a particular pose or stay balanced, this quality of focus can help children improve concentration in school, and even get better grades.
Tip: if you have a kiddo that’s easily distracted, leading them through or finding a program that is more active will help them ease into the more calming practice. We tend to start being very active and energetic in our yoga with kids, and by midway through our time they’ve really calmed down and focused. For us, it’s easier to start with the fun and end with the peace. – Rob
Yoga strengthens trust
Spending time with your children is always a good idea, but spending time in a way where you’re practicing a new, challenging physical activity together can help create a shared experience that promotes emotional bonding. It has been shown that practicing fitness or shared activities in a group setting “stimulates the production of oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone.”
In any new situation, your child will look to you for guidance, and when they succeed, it will strengthen feelings of trust between you and your child. Your parent-child bond will only grow and flourish through doing yoga together.
Rob’s tips for adding yoga with kids to traveling
Something we love to do when we’re traveling as a family is to have beach or pool time, as well as hiking and walks in the city. Depending on the weather, we like to take advantage of being outdoors with the kids to take a few minutes here and there to work in some yoga poses. Sometimes we make the outdoor yoga last and sometimes it’s a simple stop to breathe and take in the surroundings.
Beach yoga with kids
You can’t go wrong with kids at the beach, and yoga at the beach is just as wonderful as swimming sometimes. Since you may not always be traveling with a yoga mat, the beach is a great place to find a soft floor for practicing yoga. A simple series of poses, typically not requiring too much balance, is very easy to incorporate into a beach day.
Suggested beach yoga poses: downward dog, upward dog, seated twist, half moon pose, and happy baby
Hiking yoga poses to try
Depending on how active you are normally, a good hike can make you a little sore, both during and after the hike. We enjoy hiking with kids often, and we’re really good about incorporating stretching into our hiking plan. Whether we’re stretching to ensure we don’t tighten up halfway up the mountain or because the surrounding are just inspiring us to take a moment for some yoga, breathing deeply out in the woods makes yoga with kids outside even more beneficial.
Please note, when you’re hiking and taking a yoga stop, be sure that you’re not 1.) being a meadow-stomper and 2.) blocking the hiking trail. You want to be sure that you’re practicing or taking a break in a safe place and that you leave no trace on your surroundings.
Suggested poses when hiking: standing triangle, head to knee forward bend, standing forward bend, half moon pose
City yoga with kids
City yoga? Oh yes, it’s a thing. Depending on the city you’re in, there are a few options for enjoying city yoga with kids or on your own. Whether it’s by taking a brief moment to get into a pose or two for pictures, or actually taking a break in a nice city park, there are ways to incorporate yoga with kids into a day in the city. And theme parks too… I’m just saying that if you’re lucky enough to get a moment of peace and calm with a cool back drop, it doesn’t hurt to strike a yoga pose for a picture. Just sayin’…
Suggested city photo poses: mountain, half moon pose, warrior 1 or 2, standing bow pulling
Something else to look for and research when you’re visiting a new city is public yoga practices. I first saw a public practice, actually of tai chi, when I was walking around the city of Xi’an, Shaanxi, China late at night. It was amazing to see a huge crowd practicing in unison in public. Soon after, I returned to Seattle where I learned that there are both tai chi and public yoga practices in several city parks. Since then, I’ve seen and participated in public practices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orlando and other cities.
Did you ever think about or realize the great benefit of doing yoga with kids? The physical and emotional benefits of yoga, particularly in practicing with kids as they grow, is boundless. We love the yoga time we get with our little guys and have seen the benefit. You should try it too!
Want to pin this for later when you’re thinking about incorporating physical activity with your travels or homeschooling? Go for it!