One Sunday at church, a little girl about the same age as my son approached him and introduced herself. She proceeded to ask politely, “Want to see my flamingo pose?”

He nodded eagerly and she demonstrated her lovely balancing-on-one-foot skills.

We smiled and encouraged her by saying, “We really like that pose too! Thanks for showing us!” Then she scampered off.

Would an interaction like this have happened between kids 10 years ago? Probably not!

Yoga, which originated in India, has increased dramatically in popularity across the globe in recent decades. These days there is widespread understanding of yoga’s ability to calm the mind and improve physical health. It’s become a valuable tool for managing the stress and demands of modern life.

A 2012 survey revealed that millennials (ages 18 to 33) are more stressed than any other living generation. Children are presenting symptoms of stress and anxiety at very early ages as the pressure to meet rising academic standards and societal expectations grows. Thankfully, schools and families all over the world are adopting yoga practices and seeing amazing improvements in self-regulation skills, academic performance, resilience, and mood.

Big benefits for little yogis

Mental

When the fight or flight mechanism kicks in and a little person is overwhelmed with sensory overload, regular yoga practice signals the calming effects of the parasympathetic nervous system. Benefits also include improved focus and concentration, better academic performance, and better executive function development.

Physical

Mental stress has the same adverse physical effects on children as it does on adults. Children who have experience with the conditioning benefits of yoga have stronger immune systems, less anxiety and muscle pain, sleep better, and have lower blood pressure. Reducing stress levels through yoga practice reduces the risk later in life for heart disease, obesity, and depression.

Social

Even the most connected and communicative families can’t know everything about the societal pressures children receive from their peers. Children feel intense expectations to meet standards set by parents, teachers, friends, and our culture.

Using yoga as a self-care practice teaches them how to center themselves and trust intuition in difficult situations.

Emotional

Yoga helps to train the brain to focus on self-awareness. The deep breathing combined with flowing movement create the perfect combination for tuning into emotions. Children with emotional intelligence skills will be able to communicate their feelings, reducing negative interactions and increasing confidence.

If you don’t have a clue about pranayamas and don’t know the difference between a mudra and a mantra, no worries!

While it helps to have some basic knowledge of the terms, and it’s important to show respect for the ancient practice, there are many easy ways to include yoga in family life. Here are a few:

  • Greet the day with a sun dance
  • Practice sitting still like a frog
  • Try a warrior pose before an anxiety-provoking situation
  • Focus on a lion’s breath to shake off frustration
  • Include deep breaths and movement in your morning routine

We have all sorts of tricks up our sleeves to relieve the stress of modern family life. We can show our children that yoga is one of those powerful tricks.

I love to imagine our generation’s children as adults who are peaceful, kind, and exude a confident, positive energy. They are proactive instead of reactive and understand how to care for the planet and one another.

Research has yet to definitively prove if yoga can bring up such adults, but studies so far show only positive change for adults and children with dedicated yoga practices. It’s nice to think we are on our way to that vision.

Our interaction with “flamingo pose girl” reminded us how we are all interconnected. We had never met this spunky little one but we shared with her a love of yoga and the almost magical effects it can have on a person.

Though it may be a fairly new parenting technique, anything that provides the courage to approach someone new, be yourself, and boldly strike a pose must certainly be a good thing.