We get it. Our kids are spending a lot of time glued to screens these days. School is online. Social lives are online. Even birthday parties and family celebrations have been moved online. So, why would you sign up for an online yoga class during an otherwise online year? Several reasons.
Mindful movement actually helps kids learn. Simply put, movement turns on our brain. Just like exercise strengthens our muscles and our heart, movement strengthens the areas of our brain that must be activated and available in order for kids to learn. Many of the yoga poses we practice in our classes specifically activate the same pathways in the brain used for reading, writing, and processing numbers. Research has repeatedly shown that children who move their bodies daily perform better academically and have a better attitude towards school. Want to learn more? Here’s a great TED Talk by Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki about how exercise changes our brain.
Yoga and mindfulness reduces stress. We like to think that children have it easy, but being a kid is no joke! Especially these days, many children (just like us!) are walking around in a constant low-level state of fight/flight/freeze. Their nervous system is just constantly activated. Kids aren’t always able to understand, much less articulate, their feelings of stress and overwhelm. Sometimes, this can present in obvious ways: kids with physical complaints, children bouncing off the walls, or sullen, sulky, tearful children. Other times, the signs are less obvious. Children may not get restful sleep at night, or they may struggle with focus, follow-through, or learning. Think about it: if your nervous system is telling you to be careful about the tiger lurking in the tall grass, its not leaving you a lot of resources to memorize the names of the insects living in it.
Yoga and mindfulness practices are helpful to our children for the same reason they’re helpful to adults. They allow us to drop into both our bodies and the moment. We can slow down and begin to make sense of what we’re feeling, or at least realize that the tiger in the grass is really just a house cat. On an intellectual and emotional level, this helps because having an increased awareness of our feelings gives us a greater capacity to process and move through them. On a physiological level, the movement and breathing exercises taught in kids yoga classes activate the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing our children to switch off the fight/flight/freeze response and drop into the space of rest and digest. When a child’s nervous system is less activated, they are much more able to sit still and focus on classes, and to work with and retain new information.
Yoga teaches kids self regulation and resilience skills helpful in managing an online workload and unusual schedule. Controlling our thoughts and actions, and bouncing back when things don’t go as expected. Can you think of two bigger school-related challenges? Yoga gives children a very low-risk, fun environment to practice the skills that online school demands from them. The mindfulness practices woven through every yoga class can be carried easily off the mat and into the school day. Children learn to focus their attention–and intention–on a single task, despite many distractions. They learn to try their best and stick with things even when they’re hard or a little uncomfortable. They practice getting comfortable with unsteadiness, and laughing when they fall–and then they get back up and try again. They might think they’re just learning to do tree pose, but they absorb the larger lesson and can use it when they’re bored in Zoom-class, or the tech trips them up.
Not all screen time is created equal. When my daughter was younger, I had some really big feelings and a lot of anxiety around screen time. I was convinced that any screen time at all was too much. Over time, I came to realize there was a huge difference between an episode of Mr. Rogers and handing her an iPad. Many parents seem to be going through a similar mental debate with themselves during this pandemic, when we’re all spending so much time at how, trying to juggle parenting, careers, housework, Zoom everything, and online school. Its easy for it to seem like our kids are on a screen all day long. The important thing to remember is that active, enriching screen time is nearly always more beneficial than it is harmful. Interactive, online yoga class is not the same as watching Netflix or even taking school classes with minimal interaction. We keep our students moving throughout class, and we actively engage them in the class flow through back-and-forth conversation. Check out these examples of in-class interaction:
Call & Response Sun Salutations
Yoga Pose Round-Robin Storytelling
Physical education is largely absent from the virtual school day. One of the
side effects of this pandemic is that most of the incidental movement has been removed from our days. Without a commute, we walk and stand less. With gyms and fitness studios limited or shuttered, our usual classes have been cancelled or moved online. Our children are in the same boat. They’re no longer walking to school, moving around the building, or running, jumping, and climbing at recess. Structured PE classes are generally brief and minimal, if children participate at all. Given the benefits of movement that we’ve already mentioned above, coupled with the fact that its simply not healthy to be still all day, it makes sense to add a structured movement class to your child’s schedule, even if it can’t be in person.
Our Fall 2020 Kids Yoga & Mindfulness classes begin the week of September 28th. Registration is open now!