Column: Igniting their inner light – benefits of yoga for children


Commentary by Melissa Summers Whybrew

Our children are growing up in a hurried world, filled with an influx of busyness and a pressure to be constantly connected with technology. We usually don’t think of these influences as being stressful for our children, but often they are.

CIZ HEALTH 0328 Whybrew Column
Melissa Summers Whybrew with her son, Carter. (Submitted photo)

Just today, in the morning rush to get out the door, I was responding to a text while attempting to hurry my toddler to the car.  Suddenly, he turned to me, sucked in a room full of air, and grunted.  He was frustrated with the bustling pace of the morning, and rightfully so.

So, how do we help our little ones counter these influential pressures?  An increasing number of adults are turning to yoga for its well-known benefits for both the body and mind.  Children too can derive enormous benefits from yoga.

When children learn techniques for mindfulness, relaxation, and inner fulfillment, they can navigate life’s challenges with a little more ease.  Reflecting back on my son’s outward expression this morning, I came to realize that it was actually an appropriate response.  Even at a young age, he independently tapped in to his yoga toolbox to deal with his anxiety and frustration, and chose to use his breath, by way of a sigh, rather than screaming or throwing a tantrum to rein in my attention.

Of course, yoga is physically beneficial for children as well.  It enhances their flexibility, strength, balance, and coordination. It is also a great way to improve self-esteem and body awareness with a physical activity that’s noncompetitive.  The CDC recommends 60 minutes of physical activity, per day, for children.  For a little one with limited  motor skills, or an older child that is not athletically inclined, that is quite a tall order.  Yoga is a great activity because, instead of routine exercises that they may not be able to connect with or perform, yoga poses mimic animals or ideas familiar to children  that are fun and provide just the right challenge.

So how can you help your little yogi grow? Classes can be a fun experience for both you and your little one. Many of them feel honored to practice on the mat in a class setting, whether it’s next to a caretaker or with their peers.  If you are unable to get your child to a class, there are several alternatives to help them let that inner light shine.  Our Zionsville Public Library has several kids’ yoga DVDs available to borrow, and there are several Cosmic Kids adventures available to stream on YouTube.

Melissa Summers Whybrew teaches adults, kids, new mothers and their babies at Simply Yoga Zionsville.  She also teaches at several local private schools.  As a mom, she is especially passionate about children’s health, fitness, and coping techniques.