I know it sounds hokey, and probably posh and presumptuous. I swear I am not that kind of mom -- really. But my kids practice yoga. They LOVE yoga, and are excited every Saturday or Sunday morning to accompany me to my spinning studio where they partake in a kids yoga class while I sweat it out with the other parents doing the same.
The first time I brought my older son Dylan to yoga it was for babysitting purposes. I admit it. I wanted to get my workout in and give my husband a break at home. He often cares for my kids when I am out working long hours, so he deserved it. From the very first class though, Dylan was enamoured. He was thrilled to have learned tons of new 'poses' and was eager to show me. He was two years old at the time.
It's now almost two years later and his younger brother, Ryan, now joins us. He is even more into it! From the first class he was excited to stand on his very own mat and stretch and reach for the body parts he was thrilled to know by name. Watching him reach for 'the trees above his head' and down to his toes was so cute. He was really into it. Ryan, at the young age of 18 months, asked to go back the very next day, which we did. I couldn't believe he even remembered the class from the day before.
So now that I sound like a 'nuts and granola' type of mom, in true scientific fashion I will back up with evidence why yoga is a great exercise for kids:
• Yoga teaches a child how to take a moment to his or herself, and breathe. It promotes metal clarity. We don't teach this in many other disciplines, and a calm breathing moment can be invaluable to a wound up, irritable child -- trust me
• You don't need much to practice yoga. A mat is really all you need. Though you are paying a teacher to demonstrate, there is no other equipment to purchase
• Yoga, much like martial arts can build self-esteem and self-respect. It's an opportunity to practice focused play without worrying about getting the pose perfectly. The point of yoga is to slowly improve upon a pose, not get it perfect the very first time.
• Yoga is great for a shy child who may withdraw from group activity
• Yoga enhances flexibility, challenging muscles that may not be used routinely.
• Yoga enhances coordination and promotes balance
• Accomplishing a new pose or improving on it provides a sense of accomplishment
• Yoga refines gross and fine motor skills
• Concentration and focus are paramount in yoga, a great skill for children and adults of all ages
• Yoga fosters patience. Improving on a pose takes time and determination.
• Yoga encourages mindfulness and a mind-body connection that most of us ignore during our daily lives
• Multiple studies of children with behavioural and physical challenges demonstrate large benefits. Yoga practice can decrease aggressive behaviour, hyperactivity, and social withdrawal in children with autism and attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder. These same children shared more and communicated more effectively after practicing yoga for an hour.
Don't believe the evidence and me? If there is a children's yoga class in your neighbourhood give it a try. Ask your child how it was. Notice if you see increased concentration, focus and self-esteem. I dare you. What's the downside?
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