BENEFITS OF YOGA FOR KIDS
While you are probably aware of the numerous benefits of yoga for kids, chances are you aren’t sure where to begin. The thought of incorporating yoga into your classroom can be intimidating. But don’t worry. Through this article I will simplify the process of introducing yoga in your classroom.
Before we begin, I need to address a major concern of teaching yoga in schools.
Despite the many benefits of yoga, it can also be met with some degree of skepticism. Critics of yoga often view it as a connection to Hinduism as a form of religious prayer. People often link yoga with Sanskcrit names for the yoga poses. They also imagine yoga as a lot of ritualistic chanting. The yoga I teach my kids couldn’t be further from this. And to distance the practice of yoga from any religious aspects, I highlight both the physical and mental benefits of yoga for my kids.
Yoga For Students
Yoga can be an awesome total body workout that can be done with with little to no equipment. A yoga workout will improve both strength and mobility while improving aerobic fitness as students move through the various poses. It can be done almost anywhere allowing teachers to use it both inside of their classroom as well as outdoor facilities at their school. Yoga can even be used through distance learning with the help of visual cues and streaming videos.
Yoga is a great way to teach kids body awareness by strengthening the neuromuscular, or mind-body, connection. Yoga also can be linked to various district and state standards. For instance, the California physical education standards focus on students being able to demonstrate proficient movement patterns. This can be difficult considering students from kindergarten through high school are in a near constant state of growth and development. As students are getting taller their body is always having to relearn how to coordinate safe and efficient movement. Through yoga the can teach kids various dynamic movements and incorporate it into the active recovery process.
Finally, yoga can help students learn to calm their bodies. Studies have linked stress with the onset of depression in adolescents as well as adults. By connecting breathing to the movements of yoga, students can trigger the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. This will act as hormonal reset to help counteract stress as a healthy coping mechanisms.
Yoga For Elementary Students
When working with younger kids, I like begin by connecting yoga to basic movement patterns. Chances are they have already done similar activities with other teachers which will bring a feeling of familiarity. I might not even call it yoga. Instead we will blend it into our daily movement activities.
From there we teach students about movement literacy through our yoga basics. It’s a great way to get them moving during the school day. And it can be expanded into a physical education lesson or used a short “brain break” during class.
Yoga For High School Students
Yoga is a fantastic way for high school students to build a sense of movement literacy. It’s also an individual activity where students get to take ownership of learning. I am constantly reminding my kids that yoga is a process. Each day we strive to get a little better than the day before. Before each lesson begins I get to remind them, “yoga is something you practice. It’s not something you perfect.” This way they know it’s about the journey and getting the most out of each class for themselves. Yoga can be very appealing to students because it not a competition. We do not keep score in yoga and classify winners and losers.
Most kids enter into my class having some knowledge of basic movements such as a plank or a lunge. Through yoga we can build up on their fitness level and allow them to gain mastery over the movements. These “yoga flows” can become an effective stand alone workout or part of a physical education unit.
Yoga Basics For Beginners
Regardless of how old your students are, there is going to be a range of ability levels for your students. In building my lessons for teaching yoga, I focus the activity around four foundational poses that we can build from: standing poses, twisting poses, plank poses, and balance poses.
For instance, a starting activity for students may be working on transitioning from a standing position to a high plank by walking their hands out through an inchworm movement. While this may seem overly simple, it can be very changing for students who have limited hamstring flexibility and core strength. As they are working on perfecting these movements and poses I can help guide them as to what they should be feeling through their muscles and joints.
Beginning A Simple Yoga Routine
Simply having a copy of printable yoga movement cards is all some need to get started introducing yoga into their classroom. However, other teachers may want a more structured yoga curriculum to guide you. When I first got started I found several free resources online. However, most were not designed to be taught as part of a unit. They were Youtube videos that were more fitting for someone already comfortable with yoga. And I needed more direct instruction for my students.
Thankfully I found a few yoga programs I could stream for my students that really taught the process and gave modifications. Much like how I structure other activities, they allowed everyone to find success. If you would like more information on these programs, I’d love to guide you in their direction.
Until next time,