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Yoga: Could Your Kids Benefit?

Posted Jan 28 2013 8:24am
Image courtesy of Sattva / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Sattva / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Obesity  is the most prevalent nutritional disorder among  children and adolescents in the United States . Approximately 21-24% of  American  children and adolescents are overweight, and another 16-18% is obese. Considering budget cuts and time restraints in schools across the nation, in addition to the elimination or reduction of physical education, schools and parents need to find cost-effective ways to bring physical education ( PE ) back.  Childhood  obesity  predisposes to insulin resistance and diabetes, hypertension, liver and renal disease, as well as reproductive dysfunction.  Being obese as a child also increases the risk of adult-onset obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Physical exercise  alone does not seem to be enough to maintain health and wellness anymore. Today’s typical child is described as stressed out, under nourished,and sedentary. The complexity posed by these profiles demands treatment that taps into both the physical and the psycho-social domain. A study by Parshad  found the state of the mind and that of the body to be intimately related. If the mind is relaxed, the muscles in the body will also be relaxed. Stress produces a state of physical and mental tension.  Adults and children of all ages are more stressed than ever and yoga may be the perfect form of exercise to balance the body and mind.

Image courtesy of Ponsuwan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ponsuwan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Research supports that young children show clear stress consequences related to experience, behavior, and health. Stress is a common emotion among children – particularly that which is caused by fear of failure. Research was conducted to determine if relaxation-based lessons decrease the amount of negative emotion among children. The technique, Training of Relaxation with Elements of Yoga for Children , used breath exercises, imagination journeys, and yoga to introduce self-control and relaxation. The research results show that this training increased long-term emotional balance, reduced fears, and decreased feelings of helplessness and aggression.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center  study showed that people who regularly practice yoga have fewer chances of gaining weight and are more likely to lose weight. Additionally, yoga allows asthmatic children or adults to maintain a healthy lifestyle without fear of a high-intensity exercise induced asthma attack. Researchers at California State University recently examined the correlation between yoga and academic performance, discipline, attendance, and self-esteem. The study showed a 20% increase in the number of students who felt good about themselves and a six percent increase in classroom discipline, indicating that students who had high participation in yoga class also had fewer referrals or discipline problems. These research results also showed a “statistically significant” link between yoga participation and better grades.

According to the  University of Indiana ’s Sound Medicine, children who practice yoga, often experience healthier sleep patterns which allows them to relax more than children who don’t practice yoga. Another study conducted by the Journal of Attention Disorders found that ADHD children who practice yoga are much more likely to remain focused and are less hyperactive, which in turned reduced the amount of emotional outbursts and oppositional behavior.  With millions of America’s youth on psychotropic drugs, often potent stimulates to treat ADD and ADHD  , yoga may offer these families an alternative to pharmaceutical medication.

The Gurukula Education System (GES) is the oldest system of education in the Indian culture, which incorporates mind-calming breathing techniques and yoga postures. Modern Education System, which is a classification found throughout the United States , focuses primarily on the development of the left-brain. It often defines success as the amount of money someone earns and neglects to encourage well-being and the full maturation of personality. The GES approach provides a value system whereby individuals can acquire the skills and professionalism required by society to build ideal social values. In a comparison of the two systems, results revealed the GES curriculum included practices that more effectively calmed the students’ minds and developed their cognitive skills. GES students showed significantly more improvement in IQ, memory, sustained attention, and planning ability.

Yoga is generally low-impact and safe for healthy people when practiced appropriately under the guidance of a well-trained instructor. Overall, those who practice yoga have a low rate of side effects, and the risk of serious injury from yoga is quite low. However, certain types of stroke as well as pain from nerve damage are among the rare possible side effects of practicing yoga. Women who are pregnant and people with certain medical conditions , such as high blood pressure, glaucoma (a condition in which fluid pressure within the eye slowly increases and can damage the eye’s optic nerve), and sciatica (pain, weakness, numbing, or tingling that can extend from the lower back to the calf, foot, or even the toes), should modify or avoid some yoga poses.

If accessibility or finances are an issue, there are many free resources online. For more information about the benefits of yoga for kids, just ask Denver’s own  Casey Feicht , a mom and kids’ yoga teacher, who is offering a 40 hour kids yoga teacher training in June, called the “3 Easy Steps to teaching Kids Yoga”.  For more information about kids yoga or the upcoming yoga teacher training visit  Additional resources can be found through one of our favorite Enlightened Lotus Wellness community contributors, Yome yoga , which offers free full length online yoga classes. Even classes tailored to or medical conditions, . Practicing yoga does not require any special equipment or a large initial investment and can be practiced virtually anywhere.

If you are considering trying yoga, do not use yoga or any other complementary health practice to replace conventional medical care or to postpone seeing a health care provider about pain or any other medical condition. If you have a medical condition, talk to your health care provider before starting yoga. Ask a trusted source (such as your health care provider or a nearby hospital) to recommend a yoga practitioner. Find out about the training and experience of any practitioner you are considering. Everyone’s body is different, and yoga postures should be modified based on individual abilities. Carefully selecting an instructor who is experienced with and attentive to your needs is an important step toward helping you practice yoga safely. Ask about the physical demands of the type of yoga in which you are interested and inform your yoga instructor about any medical issues you have.

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