by Jackie Casal, Certified Yoga Instructor and Massage Therapist 

We were all born with flexibility. It is life experience and stress that tightens up our bodies, rounds our shoulders and gives us neck and back pain. Imagine if you would have learned yoga postures and deep breathing techniques when you were a kid. How might your body and mind be different today? While we cannot go back in time to change our own lives, we can offer this opportunity to our children.

These days, children live a fast-paced life filled with school, homework, sports, music lessons and other activities that can cause stress if it gets to be too much. Yoga specifically designed for kids can provide an opportunity for children to slow down, stretch and connect to their inner joy so that they can learn to cope with stress and remain flexible. Here are more ways that kids yoga can benefit children:

:: Increased strength, coordination and flexibility. Children learn many different yoga postures that increase strength, balance and flexibility. Yoga postures strengthen the muscles along the front and back of the spine, allowing children to have better posture. Balancing postures increase core strength, allowing children to be less likely to injure themselves. 

:: Enhanced concentration and focus. It takes a child’s full attention to learn a yoga posture. Each posture involves balancing, breathing and coordination. During balancing postures, children focus their eyes on a certain object to help them stay balanced on one foot. This teaches them how to maintain focus and awareness. 

:: A sense of peace and calm. Even the most high-energy children have an inner calm. Yoga teaches kids how to access this inner calm at any given moment. Through breathing techniques, children learn how to calm themselves down, self-soothe and cope. Deep breathing naturally brings children into their parasympathetic nervous system, quiets their mind and helps them become centered. When children learn to slow down and breathe deeply, they are likely to be more relaxed in challenging situations.

:: Increased self-confidence. One of the first rules of kids' yoga is not to compare. Children are encouraged to stay focused on their own bodies and breath. As they continuously practice yoga, they begin to see positive changes in their strength, balance and flexibility. They become stronger in both body and mind. 

Yoga is for all ages, but the earlier we start the earlier we can begin to absorb the many benefits. The goal of yoga for kids is to preserve physical flexibility and the joyful heart we were all born with. Children can carry the mind and body lessons of yoga with them into adulthood, so they can lead more peaceful and centered lives.