Yoga for Kids
The benefits of yoga, for every age
Small bodies stretch like cats and stand tall like trees. Kids and yoga are a natural fit. Yoga helps tots develop body awareness, acquire social skills and learn what their bodies can do. For adolescents and teens, the practice provides relaxation, builds strength and increases confidence. It calms, strengthens and heals — yet feels like playtime.
“Yoga is noncompetitive and a wonderful supplement to athletics and dance/cheerleading,” says Trish Adkins, a South Jersey yoga instructor and MK MomSpeak contributor (with her blog Yoke). “It can help children focus in school, manage stress, prevent injury and be a supportive, alternative therapy should they have special needs.”
“There’s a real nationwide movement happening where parents and teachers are recognizing the huge benefits yoga has for kids,” says musician/children’s yoga instructor Kira Willey, a Bethlehem mom. In addition to improving muscle strength, flexibility, coordination and balance, “Children learn to calm themselves — a very important skill to develop in this hustle-bustle world. “
“Kids carry heavy backpacks and have so much pressure with sports, schedules and school,” says Delaware yoga instructor Zoe Parente, who also touts yoga’s ability to act as a physical and emotional antidote to 21st-century stress loads.
The youngest yogis
A teenager herself when she fell in love with yoga, Parente now shares that passion with the tiniest of students. Certified to teach infants through 18-year-olds, she leads Zoo Yoga at the Brandywine Zoo; her OM’ing Otters winter session for 2- to 7-year-olds starts this month.
The youngest participants, called “strong walkers,” are around 11 months old. At this age, they work on tummy time and “warm touch,” which involves learning where their legs and arms are and how their bodies move. As children grow, the practice becomes more about social skills. They also work on fine motor skills and discover what their bodies are capable of doing. For older kids, Parente says yoga’s all about channeling their inner Elsas, “calming down and letting it go” for an hour or so.
Yoga's music connection
Whether kids do yoga to the Frozen soundtrack or to tunes keyed specifically for the practice, like the songs on Willey’s How to Be a Cloud CD, “The yoga/music connection works brilliantly for lots of reasons,” says the Parent’s Choice and Independent Music Award winner. “It keeps kids’ attention — music is captivating and helps them focus. Also, music can set the stage for the different phases of class (calm, active and so on). Using music aids retention, too; attaching information to a melody makes it memorable. Think of how most people learn their ABCs.”
Yoga's mind/body connection
Many are drawn to yoga for its healing power. When Adkins’ oldest daughter, Lily, now 8, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 14 months, yoga spurred her recovery. “Lily’s brain tumor and the treatment left her unable to sit up on her own, crawl or walk. She had extreme vertigo,” Adkins recalls. “My husband suggested the baby yoga books that I used when she was a newborn. We started with the basics and Lily started to heal. The yoga, coupled with her PT and OT, was such an amazing part of our family’s healing process.”
This experience inspired Adkins to learn more about the practice. She now teaches yoga to children of all abilities, as well as to adults with developmental and psychological disorders and those battling cancer.
Adkins notes the way her three very different children incorporate yoga to suit their own needs and level. Lily now uses “yogic breathing when she is struggling with tough school work and as a way to deepen her dance studies. My 5-year-old is beginning to do more grown-up asanas and learning to flow between poses. For my 2-year-old son, yoga is a fun activity that we do together. I love that it teaches him how his body works, what parts are called and to be in tune with how he feels. He loves acting like monsters, superheroes, trains and animals. Yoga is such a great way to creatively play — no toys required!”
Janet Tumelty is a South Jersey mom and freelance writer.
NEXT PAGE: Where to find kids' yoga classes in Philly, the PA suburbs, South Jersey & Delaware.
Kids' Yoga Classes in . . .
Philly & the PA 'burbs
All Kids Yoga, Phoenixville
Center on Central Time, Phila.
Cerca Trova Yoga, Havertown
Happy Hearts Yoga, Richboro
Pacific Yoga Philly, Phila.
Prana House Yoga, Haverford
Rock School For Dance Education, The, West Chester
Sol Yoga Studio, Conshohocken
Yoga Child, Phila.
Yogasphere, Doylestown, Newtown, Richboro
Experience Yoga Studios, Blackwood
Fitness Yoga Studios, Mullica Hill
Halo Wellness Center, Marlton
Sanctuary for Yoga, The, Medford
Shine Power Yoga, Maple Shade, West Berlin
Studio for Yoga, The, Moorestown
Studio Luloo, Oaklyn
Yoga Path Studio, Moorestown
Yoga Wood, Collingswood
Awareness Center, The, Newark
Brandywine Zoo, The, Wilmington
Higher Power Yoga & Fitness, Dover
Liberty Yoga, Newark
Lighthouse Dance & Yoga, Selbyville
Serenity Yoga Studio, Newark
Tree Frog Kids Yoga, Newark
Tulaa Yoga, Wilmington
Vital Pilates, Inc., Wilmington