Yoga

Yoga's Great for Kids - but Not "Hot" Yoga

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Last night, in an all-levels Vinyasa class, there was a mother and her adorable, 10-year old daughter practicing behind me. Everything about it was heartwarming (particularly the matching Yoga clothes). I have been hearing a lot about Yoga for kids’ recently, but mostly because of this article from Yoga Journal - Bikram for children? Hmmm…

“Starting your kids out young in yoga sounds like a great idea, but would you bring your child to a hot yoga class? In case you haven’t heard, Bikram’s self-proclaimed “torture chambers” are a series of twenty-six postures in a 104-degree room for 90 minutes. It is an extreme workout. Instructors say it’s natural to feel nauseous, dizzy and maybe even black out. This blogger from MomLogic.com starts investigating after a mother brings her four-year-old to the weekend hot yoga class.

“At the beginning of the class, this little yogi was trying each of the moves, naturally having trouble holding any pose. By 15 minutes into the class, the poor thing was playing with her water bottle, spraying herself and rolling around on her towel.”

I am in my mid-30s, and I can barely stay focused for the hour and a half. So I totally understood how this little one was bored out of her mind. As the class continued, she got up and down and tried more moves. Of course her mom kept trying to correct her, but the instructor insisted that she let her daughter learn on her own. Meanwhile, I was hot as hell and wondering, Is this healthy for the child?

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So of course, back at work, I just had to get an expert opinion. Pediatrician and momlogic expert Dr. Alanna Levine said the following:

“I do not recommend that young children participate in Bikram yoga. Children handle high temperatures differently than adults. They have a higher surface-area-to-mass ratio, which means they absorb heat more than adults do. They also have a smaller blood volume, which makes it harder for them to dissipate the heat. Lastly, they have a slower rate of sweat production than adults, and sweating is a mechanism to cool us off. Children are not ‘mini adults’ — and should not be treated as such.”

Agreed – but let us not forget that the right kind of Yoga can be beneficial for anyone, so now I give you 25 Reasons your Kids Should do Yoga” from www.sportsmanagementdegrees.net:

    1. It builds healthier eating habits. Some studies indicate that kids who practice yoga may choose healthier foods.
    2. Yoga helps kids deal with life’s stress. When kids “slow down” to participate in the practice of yoga, they learn techniques to help them deal with life’s challenges.
    3. Yoga helps children develop creativity. A holistic approach to teaching yoga allows children to experience yoga along with creative activities such as storytelling, expressive movement, and even art.
    4. Practicing yoga helps kids learn how to control their emotions. Especially for kids with autism spectrum disorders or other behavioral issues, the calming techniques learned in yoga may help them manage emotional outbursts.
    5. Practicing yoga helps build self-esteem. Studies show that children suffering from eating disorders report an improved self-image on the days they practice yoga. But even “normal” children will have a better sense of self after practicing yoga.
    6. Yoga is a non-competitive way to exercise. When children practice yoga, they learn ways to exercise that don’t involve winning or losing. Everybody feels good after doing yoga.
    7. Yoga improves self-discipline. Children who are learning yoga also learn to master their own behavior. They learn to control themselves, rather than waiting for others to tell them what to do.
    8. Yoga may help kids with ADHD. Studies from the University of Heidelberg suggest that yoga, in coordination with other therapies, may help kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
    9. Yoga improves strength. Despite appearing to be a low-impact activity, yoga requires greater muscular strength the more advanced one becomes. Children develop stronger muscles from practicing yoga.
    10. Yoga also improves flexibility. The deep stretching and breathing involved in yoga improves muscular flexibility, which is important for avoiding injuries.
    11. Practicing yoga improves focus and attention. Yoga requires concentration. While some kids might not find this easy at first, the more they practice, the easier focusing will be.
    12. Yoga play allows children to learn bodily self-awareness. By deliberately moving the body and thinking about the way it feels, children develop more self-awareness.
    13. Yoga helps children develop control and awareness of their breathing. Breath awareness and the ability to calm down and meditate are important skills that children can use for their whole lives.
    14. Yoga builds listening skills.Taking a yoga class builds good listening skills, helping your child be more respectful of others.
    15. Yoga improves balance and coordination. Many yoga poses require the ability to balance. This is not always easy for children at first, but as they continue to practice, their balance will improve.
    16. Yoga helps prevent sports injuries. By improving strength and overall flexibility, yoga can help young athletes prevent injury to growing bones and muscles.
    17. Yoga develops the skill of midline crossing. It’s something adults take for granted, but any activity that encourages crossing the midline, or the imaginary line at the center of your body, is beneficial for motor skills.
    18. Yoga is a fun way to get exercise! Doing playful yoga poses is a great, non-threatening way for kids to get moving. They can pretend to be the animals or objects named in the pose, such as the cobra, the tiger, or the mountain.
    19. Yoga encourages a positive outlook. Yoga is such a calming, restful, and fun activity that it’s hard not to feel good afterwards. Kids who do yoga on a regular basis report feeling happier.
    20. Yoga helps children develop directionality. Young children who have a hard time telling the difference between right and left will be helped by practicing yoga.
    22. Yoga helps kids build patience. It takes patience and time to learn a new physical skill, and as new yoga poses are introduced, your child may not be able to do it all at first. But the important thing is that a good yoga instructor will give the child encouragement and time.
    23. Yoga improves posture. Children that spend a lot of time seated at desks in school or in front of the computer at home may develop upper body tension and increased spinal pressure. Yoga relieves this.
    24. With yoga, the focus is on the individual. Rather than being pressured to do exactly the same thing as the others in class, a child practicing yoga is on an individual journey within the class. An instructor can give feedback to each child and each child feels like they have learned something.
    25. Yoga can help kids with special needs. Yoga has been shown to be helpful and therapeutic for children with Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other physically limiting conditions. Each child is different, so of course you should ask your pediatrician or specialist.