The many benefits of Yoga & Mindfulness for children

Did you know that in addition to our rich core BOKS programing (both elementary and middle school curriculums), our 2-10 minute BOKS Bursts DPA activities, and so much more, BOKS Canada also provides our participating schools, teachers, parents, and other volunteer “Champions of Change” a comprehensive Yoga & Mindfulness curriculum supplement. Why Yoga and mindfulness you ask? Well this following blog will detail just that as l examine the many benefits of Yoga and mindfulness practice for children.

First, what exactly is Yoga? The development of Yoga can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago, but some researchers think that Yoga may be up to 10,000 years old. This ancient Indian form of exercise, meditation and breathing practices designed to bring unity to the mind, body, and spirit. As a Yoga teacher, the word spirit signifies our connection with ALL – the air we breathe, gravity (which is constantly pressing down on our bodies), the sun, the food we eat, what we drink, the energy put out (body language, tone, our vibrations), the energy we take in (the music we listen to, the media/programming we consume, the people we surround ourselves with, etc.), our community, our senses of sight, smell, vision, taste, and touch, our inner dialogue (such as our thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations), EVERYTHING. With this mindset, Yoga becomes so much more the physical practice of “Yoga”, instead it’s about cultivating the awareness of our connecting with the ALL with the least amount of stress and effort. It is in everything we do, we’re in Yoga ALL THE TIME. Most important, Yoga is a practice which we must develop by putting in the work. Practice equals progress.

And how about mindfulness, what is that you may ask? Mindfulness is being the OBSERVER of the here and now, focusing one’s awareness to the PRESENT moment. It’s all about calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Being mindful is our basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Most notably, mindfulness is about the recognition of what is and the ability to wield CHOICE to let go of any internal dialogue/monkey chatter which is coming up. Similar with Yoga, mindfulness is a practice, and the path to developing increased mindfulness is by taking action, putting in the reps and leading by example.

But why put in this effort? The esearch is abundantly clear, teaching Yoga and mindfulness to children results in many possible benefits including a healthier body, development of stress management and relaxation skills, enhanced self-awareness and self-esteem, increased imagination and empathy, and improved self-discipline (Harrison, 2004).Research also indicates that participation in wellness programming such as Yoga and mindfulness practice has been found to reduce stress and tension, dissipate excess energy, relieve tiredness, lengthen attention span, improve physical health, sharpen concentration, enhance mental clarity, and cultivate better interpersonal relationships (Seiler & Renshaw, 1978; Peck, Kehle, Bray, & Theodore, 2005; Nardo & Reynolds, 2002).

Moreover, the correlation between academic performance and Yoga/mindfulness practice is definite, with research linking regular Yoga and mindfulness practice to increased academic achievement, improved decision-making skills, improved communication skills, and increased IQ and social adaptation (Uma, Nagendra, Nagarthna, Vaidehi, 1989).

Furthermore, existing research and studies addressing Yoga’s effect on children with attention and behavioral difficulties show decreased hyperactivity and impulsivity, increased self-control, increased attention span, reduced anxiety, and improved complex learning skills (Zipkin, 1985; Proger, 1980; Jensen, 2004). This is particularly notable because Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is considered to be the most common mental disorder of childhood, and the prevalenceof childhood ADHD has been reported with great variations among different studies, ranging from 2.2% to 17.8% globally (Skounti, Philalithis, & Galanakis, 2007). Given the notable prevalence ofchildren diagnosed with ADHD Yoga and mindfulness is a proven tool that could help a significant portion of your school community’s student population.

In conclusion, the evidence is overwhelming regarding the plethora of positive benefits detailing the benefits of Yoga and mindfulness for children. Thankfully, the BOKS team has created an excellent Yoga & mindfulness turn-key resource to help you “Champions of Change” step-up and introduce Yoga programming in your homes, schools and communities for the good of all. The only barrier stopping you is YOU! Remember, it’s not about being in the correct or perfect pose, it’s about connecting the kids with their breath, movement, as mindful observers of the here and now for the greater good. What are you going to do? This is your call to action. You have everything you need, right inside, waiting to be discovered. GO DO!

Derek Pang

Yoga Specialist

References list

Harrison, L. J., Manocha, R., & Rubia, K. (2004). Sahaja yoga meditation as a family treatment for children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 9, 479-497.

Jensen, P. (2004). The effects of yoga on the attention and behavior of boys with Attention Deficit/hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The Journal of Attention Disorders, 7,4, 205- 216.

Nardo, A. C., & Reynolds, C. (2002). Social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive benefits of yoga for children: A nontraditional role for school psychologists to consider. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association of School Psychologists, Chicago, IL.

Peck, H. L. Kehle, T. J., Bray, M. A., & Theodore, L. A. (2005).  Yoga as an intervention for children with attention problems.  School Psychology Review, 34(3), 415-424.

Proeger, C., & Myrick, R. D. (1980). Teaching children to relax. Florida Educational Research and Development Council Inc. Research Bulletin, 14(3), 51.

Seiler, G., & Renshaw, K. (1978). Yoga for kids. Elementary School Guidance and Counseling, 12, 229-237.

Skounti M, Philalithis A, Galanakis E. (2007). Variations in prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder worldwide. European Journal of Pediatrics, 166(2), 117–123.

Uma, K., Nagendra, HR., Nagarathna, R., Vaidehi, S., & Seethalakshmi, R. (1989). The Integrated approach of yoga: a therapeutic tool for mentally retarded children: a one-year controlled study. Journal of Mental Deficit Research, 33, 415-421.

Zipkin, D. (1985). The relaxation techniques for handicapped children: A review of literature. Journal of Special Education, 19, 283-289.