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Can Yoga Help Children? Here’s What Science Has To Say

Yoga for children and Youth

There’s some research and evidence on the effects of Yoga on children. In this post, we’ll look at research papers that explore the effects of Yoga on Children. Children’s mental health and well-being include developing healthy relationships with peers and teachers, and being able to self-regulate emotionally, mentally, and behaviorally. It is claimed that yoga can be a valuable tool for children. If children practice yoga every day with perseverance, they will be able to face the turmoil of life with steadiness and maturity1.

Positive effects of Yoga on Children and Young People
Reference: Hagen & Nayar (2014) – Yoga for children and young people’s mental health and well-being: research review and reflections on the mental health potentials of yoga

Increase in Pressure On Children

Children today are facing higher levels of exposure partly due to the increased use and spread of the internet and social media. This increase in exposure is leading to new demands, standards, and options. There is also increased pressure to succeed in school, partly due to increased competition but also a diverse range of options available for young people in contemporary times than in the past1. Even though computers and the internet are now making knowledge and resources more accessible, their intense use has come with a decline in physical activity among these users, and this lack of mobility has been linked to various kinds of health issues such as obesity and physical and mental health issues2.

Yoga For Children – Scientific Evidence

There are numerous studies that have found positive effects of Yoga on adults. It has also been widely recommended by researchers around the world that Yoga can be extremely beneficial for children. There are a few studies that have studied the impact of Yoga on children. They’ve found a positive impact.

It has been found that yoga practice among young people improves frontal lobe function. Meditation and other components of yoga for a month improves planning, which is a frontal lobe function. This improvement may be related in some way to the fact that meditation increases frontal lobe activity evidenced by an increase in regional cerebral blood flow3. In a study it was found that after one month of 75 minutes of daily yoga, breathing, internal cleansing practices, meditation, devotional songs, and relaxation, 10 to 13- year-old girls decreased the time required to execute a mental test3.

Galantino et. al (2008) did a scientific review of literature on the therapeutic effects of Yoga for Children. They concluded based on an analysis of 24 studies that yoga is an effective intervention to improve cardiorespiratory fitness, physical functioning, and behavior in children and adolescents4.

More recently published literature demonstrates that yoga practiced as little as 10 min a day over 8 weeks can have a significant impact on decreasing anxiety in children aged 8–10 years5. Another study has found that hatha yoga practice is suitable protocol to bring out the desirable changes over the self confidence of school children with disabilites6. Another study on 24 school-aged children with Autism Specturm Disorder (ASD) received eight weeks of yoga (e.g., breathing, poses, relaxation) or tabletop play/academic intervention (e.g., reading, arts-crafts, building activities). Children with ASD showed improvements in responsive joint attention, improvements in socially directed verbal communication skills across the intervention sessions, i.e. greater spontaneous and responsive communication from early/mid to late intervention sessions compared to the academic group7.

Conclusion

There’s scientific evidence on the positive outcomes of Yoga on children. There’s more work to be done to understand the effects of Yoga in a better manner among adolescents and children. However there’s a converging voice in the scientific community on positive impact of Yoga. In a day and age where children are being exposed to higher competition, and more information through the internet and social media, the stress levels, anxiety levels, and pressure is at an all time high for children. The practice of Yoga can ensure that they are well-equiped to take on the challenges of adult-hood. It’ll also prepare them to identify their purpose, and live up to their full potential.

‌References and Further Reading

  1. Hagen, I., & Nayar, U. S. (2014). Yoga for Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Well-Being: Research Review and Reflections on the Mental Health Potentials of Yoga. Frontiers in Psychiatry5. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2014.00035
  2. Nanthakumar, C. (2018). The benefits of yoga in children. Journal of Integrative Medicine16(1), 14–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joim.2017.12.008
  3. Manjunath, N. K., & Telles, S. (2001). Improved performance in the Tower of London test following yoga. Indian journal of physiology and pharmacology45(3), 351-354.
  4. Galantino, M. L., Galbavy, R., & Quinn, L. (2008). Therapeutic Effects of Yoga for Children: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Pediatric Physical Therapy20(1), 66–80. https://doi.org/10.1097/pep.0b013e31815f1208
  5. Shreve, M., Scott, A., McNeill, C., & Washburn, L. (2021). Using Yoga to Reduce Anxiety in Children: Exploring School-Based Yoga Among Rural Third- and Fourth-Grade Students. Journal of Pediatric Health Care35(1), 42–52. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pedhc.2020.07.008
  6. Prabakaran, K., & Kumaran, S. (2022). Self Confidence Response to the Influence of Yoga Practice on School Children with Disabilities. International Research Journal of Modernization in Engineering Technology and Science4, 315-318.
  7. Kaur, M., Eigsti, I.-M., & Bhat, A. (2021). Effects of a creative yoga intervention on the joint attention and social communication skills, as well as affective states of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders88, 101860. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rasd.2021.101860

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