How Yoga Can Assist With Childhood Challenges

Written by Teresa Anne Power

Illustrations by Kathleen Rietz

Yoga can be an effective tool for dealing with numerous childhood challenges such as
autism, ADHD, obesity, and stress; it teaches not only physical skills such as flexibility, strength,
stamina, balance, and coordination, but is also a valuable method of stress reduction through
conscious breath and focus. As our society begins to adapt to a faster pace of life, yoga can
provide a sense of calm for both adults as well as children.

Let’s first look at yoga and autism. Autism is a developmental disorder that typically
appears in the first three years of life; whether mild or severe, autism spectrum disorders
nevertheless interfere with a child’s ability to communicate and understand social cues. This
causes anxiety, obsessive behavior, and difficulty managing emotions.

Children with autism who practice yoga begin to feel more calm and comfortable in their
bodies. As a result, they experience less anxiety and it becomes easier for them to control their
behavior and emotions. The top 5 benefits of yoga for kids with autism include the following:

1. Better balance and increased body awareness

2. Improved sociability

3. Improved communication, namely more spontaneous speech

4. Increased strength and coordination

5. Improved mood and self-esteem.

Colorful pictures depicting how to do yoga poses can be very helpful for children with
autism, as they are very visually oriented. The capability to understand ones actions and imitate
those actions is directly correlated to the development of social-communication skills.
Simply holding Tree pose, for instance, is very effective in helping autistic children focus
and develop their attention. With their feet firmly planted on the ground and their mind focused
on breathing, it is much easier to feel a sense of control over themselves and of their
surroundings.

 

 

Illustration by Kathleen Rietz and excepted from The ABCs of Yoga for Kids, written by Teresa Anne Power

Tree pose is also a great posture for children with ADHD, as it helps them to build better
focus and concentration. Kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder act without thinking,
are hyperactive, and have trouble focusing. These children may understand what is expected of them but have difficulty following through, because they can’t sit still, pay attention, or attend to
details. Yoga helps children with ADHD by boosting concentration and focus while reducing
impulsivity and hyperactivity. 5 benefits of yoga for kids with ADHD include:

1. Increased attention span

2. Greater listening skills

3. Sharper concentration

4. Better preparation and focus in school

5. Better relationship with others.

Besides autism and ADHD, our youth are facing the challenge of obesity. Video games,
TV, the internet, and fast-food are partly to blame; an increasingly sedentary lifestyle has direct
consequences for children. However, an increase in activity and awareness can help with this
epidemic. Physical activity, such as yoga, is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle.
Indeed, anecdotal reports suggest that yoga can reduce obesity.

With a regular yoga practice, kids gain a greater understanding of how their bodies move.
In turn, they tend to develop healthier eating habits and take better care of themselves. As a
result, their self-confidence and self-awareness grows. Kite pose is great for weight loss as it
slims the waist, trims excess hip fat, and expands the chest, bringing more oxygen into the body.

Illustration by Kathleen Rietz and excepted from The ABCs of Yoga for Kids, written by Teresa Anne Power

Lastly, yoga can help kids deal with stress. Stress can come in many forms for children,
including the demands of school, test-taking, bullying, peer pressure, and increased exposure to
violence, both real and in film and television. In addition, children are under tremendous
pressure to achieve. A number of studies have shown that yoga can help reduce stress and
anxiety and can also enhance one’s mood and overall sense of well-being.

Breathing deeply in and out through the nose can help to reduce stress by calming the
body. Nasal breathing, as compared to mouth breathing, gets more oxygen into the lungs and can
help prevent hyperventilation and the fight-or-flight response. Breathing in and out through the
nose is one of the most important parts of any yoga pose, and is exemplified by Easy posture
pictured below.

 

Illustration by Kathleen Rietz and excepted from The ABCs of Yoga for Kids, written by Teresa Anne Power

Practiced regularly, yoga can improve the lives of children who face autism, ADHD,
obesity and stress. It is a natural and healthy way for kids to exercise, relax, focus, and
strengthen their minds and bodies. If our next generation could learn to calm themselves, while
at the same time building strength and fortitude, our world would be a better place. With more
body awareness, kids can make better choices for keeping their bodies healthy, both mentally
and spiritually.

Teresa Anne Power is an internationally recognized children’s yoga expert and best-selling author of the
award-winning books The ABCs of Yoga for Kids and The ABCs of Yoga for Kids: A Guide for Parents and
Teachers. She has taught yoga to kids for over 10 years, helping thousands of children develop a healthy
attitude towards their body. Teresa has also appeared on local and national TV and radio talking about
the health benefit of yoga for kids, and is a keynote speaker. In addition, she is the founder of Kids’ Yoga Day, an international event to raise global awareness of the benefits of yoga for kids. For more
information, visit www.abcyogaforkids.com and www.kidsyogaday.com.