The many benefits of yoga for young people

We have all read the “Healthy Living” magazines, blogs and memes even. Today, so unlike twenty years ago, yoga is commonplace and known to be healthy and beneficial. Even cardiologists and family physicians encourage their patients to get a big slice of that pie! Yoga and meditation, even in the scientific community, has been shown to minimize stress, increase energy, give a sense of peace and to be good for the immune system.

As a long time yoga instructor, my children have been exposed to yoga since they were in utero. Today I asked them what benefits does yoga have for young people in their experience. They just smiled when I mentioned that they’ve been practicing yoga since before they were born, as if to say “we know.”

“Well, that’s a difficult question, Mom,” my son said, "since I can’t imagine life without it.” Interesting point, they do not have a “no yoga” world to compare and contrast. This leads to the point I would like to make. 

Yoga benefits a child’s relationship with their inner world. So often as an instructor for grown-ups I believe yoga is a uniquely safe environment where an adult can return to that childlike inner space of play, peace and endless creativity. We go to the mat to “return” to what is always inside of us. Young people (in their original state) are already naturally curious and exploring their physical capabilities (they are very body-aware) all the time. They are connected to their creativity, imagination and curiosity. Isn’t that “the work” of childhood - to play, to explore, to discover, to learn? Yoga connects us to that place where mind, breath and body are one. What a beautiful gift to support “the work” of childhood yoga is!

Don’t get me wrong, young people deal with all the challenges of being human that we all do. Yoga benefits during the challenges life throws at all of us, with young people like adults. Young people face personal and family stressors, they worry about the political climate and the environment, they face fears as we do about the future of humanity. Young people have social challenges in their peer groups. The list could go on and on. Yoga and meditation makes it easier to connect to their own breath and their relationship with their own inner world. Yoga and meditation can support their ability to self-regulate their emotions and reactions, and to soothe themselves. They can learn a relationship with their own breath from a young age that can put empowerment in their own hands to be calm and capable at will. Breath is key. It is, I believe, the best thing you can give them, a connection to their own breath - and a relationship to Nature - no wonder so much of the names of the poses and metaphors of yoga come from Nature! 

With a facility with their own breath and their own inner world, a young person will always be able to care for themselves. Art, health, movement - they are all woven into yoga together. Such a life-giving, energizing and vitalizing practice. Plus, yoga is a language that’s natural to children. They already are naturally in their bodies, and embody curiosity and exploring. They play. Yoga for adults creates a safe environment in which to play again. Children naturally breathe and play, there is no struggle in yoga for them. Encouraging young people to explore yoga and meditation can only support them to discover themselves and to stay settled and strong in a wild world full of changes and challenges for us all. 

What are your best childhood memories? Please take a deep breath and remember some of these moments that you remember with a full heart. I strongly suspect these were times when you were most relaxed, feeling at home with yourself (and possibly Nature). Were these sweetest memories full of wonder, play and the magic of being alive? Yoga can connect this sort of “vacation experience” into your habits or practices of daily life. What a wonderful gift to share with your beloved young people! 

I would love to hear from you about the benefits of yoga that you have noticed in the life of your young person(s). What do you see?

-Marcela Joy