I've heard a lot of people say yoga is a good way for kids to relieve stress. Does it really work?
“I have a headache.” “My stomach hurts!” “I don’t want to go.” When kids express how they feel they may not use the word stress, but often, physical sensations or emotions may be a stress response to an internal or external trigger. With crammed schedules and always being on the go, we never seem to have enough time or rest to regulate our nervous system. Stress is a reality and learning how to best handle stress is an invaluable skill that even young children can develop and have in their life toolbox.
One of the challenges of managing stress is the feeling of not having any control over the body or mind. Children can learn to identify personal symptoms or signs of stress which can include anxiety or panic attacks, sleep problems, stomach aches, sadness or moodiness. Once awareness is developed, coping strategies are needed.
Creating balance in our lives is key to learning how to counter stress. This includes spending time in nature, exploring our creativity and unstructured play time (both physical and nonphysical).
Yoga offers a comprehensive approach to reducing stress. It releases tension and helps change unhealthy patterns into healthier ones. For example, when children learn to use their breath as a tool and watch how their bodies inhale and exhale, it teaches them how to be in the here and now. As your child becomes more centered in his being, he then develops an inner locus of control and a greater sense of control over his life and ultimately over his stress.
Yoga has been shown to increase strength, flexibility and balance; enhance immune function; lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels and promote psychological well-being.
Yoga is fun, empowering and noncompetitive. When kids practise yoga they integrate invaluable skills into their daily life so when they are facing challenges, they will be able to use what they need in the moment. These skills work best when they are used regularly. Regular parent-child yoga time together models for children how to relax and effectively deal with stress while also creating the opportunity to connect in a most meaningful and beneficial way.
Temmi Ungerman Sears, M.A., B. ED., is Founder/Director of YogaBuds Iyengar Yoga Studio
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, October 2014.