By now, most of us in the green-minded community (and beyond!) are well-versed in the mental and physical health benefits of yoga: A regular practice increases flexibility, strength, posture, and even lung capacity (thanks to the emphasis on deep breathing), and decreases feelings of stress, irritability, anxiety, and depression. When done mindfully and with the proper alignment, getting into a few downward-facing dogs every day can only help you.
The same, of course, is true for kidsand San Francisco-based Headstand is spreading the benefits to students throughout the Bay Area with their yoga curriculum. The program helps teachers integrate yoga tools into their classrooms to help improve behavior, raise self-esteem, enhance physical health, and even boost grades. And it’s working: Headstand’s pilot program found that 98 percent of participating students experienced a decrease in stressful feelings and felt more ready to learn after yoga.
For now, the program is only available to select schools in San Francisco and Houstonbut it’s easy for teachers and parents alike to incorporate simple yoga poses in the classroom and at home. Here, three from Kelly Wood , a Los Angeles-based yoga instructor and creator of Hi Yoga , a yoga training program for parents and kids:
Stirring in a bowl Children sit cross-legged with hands on their knees, then rotate their spines in circles. “Kids get to imagine they’re spoons stirring healthy food in a bowl and make suggestions of what foods are in the bowl,” Wood says.
Washing machine Children sit their hands on their shoulders and turn the shoulders left and right to mimic a washing machine’s movement. Each turn produces an imaginary bubble, which kids can count, and even describe by shape or color.
Heart meditation Children sit cross-legged with their hands at their chest in the shape of a heart. With eyes closed, they repeat “heart”.