Quick! Draw a picture of yoga in your head. Chances are, kids aren't in the scene. Why? Because, says Miriam Austin, yoga teacher and author of Yoga for Wimps, we tend to think of yoga as a healthy way to help adults cope with stress. And as adults, we tend to think that only grown-ups have real stress in their lives.
Adjust that mental picture, because, Austin points out, "Kids have a lot of stress, too." She notes that even children growing up in a happy home face a lot of competition at school. "It's a competition to get into the band or to play sports," she says. "And just being a kid and being forced to compete with the other kids all the time is a source of a lot more stress than we think."
Austin believes that yoga is a terrific way for younger children to work off nervous energy. And it helps older kids improve their athletic performance and avoid injuries. Moreover, yoga, as taught by Austin, is not competitive, it's simply fun.
Yoga is also a balanced workout because it builds strength, endurance and flexibility. It also helps to improve posture, something many teens (or their parents!) may want to focus on. Many yoga devotees also believe that the discipline can help to balance hormones, perhaps making it the ultimate antidote to the perils of puberty.
One of the best things about yoga is that it frequently boosts a child's self-confidence. "One thing I have seen repeatedly in classes," says Austin, "is that when adults start a yoga course they cannot do a hand stand. But kids are more flexible and after they are able to do something like that, their confidence goes way up!"
What should you do if you want to take your son or daughter to a yoga class? "A lot of teachers offer yoga for children," says Austin. "And adolescents are usually welcome in adult classes. Just check with the teacher to be sure." Also, no special workout attire is required. Simply dress your child in something loose and comfortable, such as shorts and a T-shirt.