Thanks to social media, more and more people have discovered the joys of yoga. While the pretty poses and expensive yoga clothing you see on Instagram has hyped the idea yoga, it doesn't get to the root of this ancient practice.
Ancient yoga has its roots in Hinduism and Buddhism, but yoga today does not belong to one religion. The core principles of being present and mindful, moving with intention and being content are all qualities that benefit humans everywhere.
Turns out lots of people think this too:
Earlier this month, an elementary school in Denver, Colorado replaced detention with yoga. Thanks to a grant, the school now employs a yoga teacher to help kids understand their actions through yoga – rather than through the “traditional punitive approach” known as detention.
Personally, I think this is brilliant. We know how helpful yoga can be for us as adults. There is no reason why it can’t also be helpful for children. In fact, research by the Harvard Medical School has found that yoga and mindfulness has shown to improve physical and mental health in children ages 6 to 12. In particular, yoga improves balance, endurance, strength, focus, memory, behavior and reduces anxiety in both children and adults. Harvard also noted that yoga has shown to help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by boosting school performance through mindfulness.
Maybe you think yoga is great for your kids, but not during school. “Its too religious,” or “its just a fad”. I know many people who have said this to me too. I sincerely hope it is not just a fad. And yoga can be as religious as you want it to be. But stretching and mindfulness are wonderful, basic human practices. Plus, doesn’t it seem healthier to teach children to cultivate contentment and mindfulness in the face of mistakes, rather than to punish them?
I’m a believer of positive reinforcement, as you can probably tell. Punishment creates distrust and fear. No, I’m not a parent of little humans yet, but I am an animal parent. Let’s take horses for example. LOTS of people assume you must push and pull and bully a 1,000-pound animal into obedience, or else you get hurt. While I understand that logic, it is completely flawed. An animal that size is going to do whatever he wants to do. If you hit him or kick him to force him to do whatever it is you’re asking of him, the result is a fearful, distrusting 1,000-pound horse. But if you cultivate a partnership with that animal – one out of trust and respect – you get a willing, beautiful, thoughtful relationship. I can refer you to many great horse-and-rider partners that will echo this same sentiment (here, here and here, among others)! 😊
Back to human children:
Parents will have their own disciplinary styles but if nothing else, yoga is proven to reduce stress, anxiety and even give people mental tools to combat feelings of worthlessness and depression. By developing this kind of self-awareness and tools to help with mental health, kids can be brought up much happier and healthier from a much younger age. If this is happening with their peers and their teachers during or after school, chances are that being surrounded by other kids and adults that are working towards the same goal will only prove more helpful in cultivating mindfulness.
ALSO.... let's talk about body image for a hot minute. Kids are self-conscious at an early age. I remember having my first crush in PRESCHOOL... and disliking parts of my body in early elementary school. Not only does yoga help with anxiety, ADHD, etc; but it can positively impact a child's self-esteem. As a gentle yet challenging form of fitness, yoga changes our mindset about food to ultimately fight American obesity. It all comes back to mindfulness. In a world were society values busyness, competition, stress and sugar, a mindful and intentional approach to fitness and nutrition starting at a young age can change a child's life for the better.
So can yoga be more than a fad?
YES. But only if we make it that way. I could have taken a totally different approach to “yoga as a fad,” but I think this is important: Children today are in a real tough spot – especially at school. Anything that brings out the best in people will get my support. Yoga just happens to be one of them 😊
P.S. In case you do want some religious yoga…my favorite Christ-centered yogi is Caroline Williams - she gets DEEP!