Yoga yields many rewards. People will often start a practice of yoga because they hear it’s good for back pain, insomnia or for postural imbalances. But months down the road, they realize that they no longer get headaches or menstrual cramps, they’ve lost weight, and discover that they are less reactive and hostile. A persistent disciplined practice of any style of yoga reveals unexpected healing.
Practitioners and teachers of every style of yoga broadcast the health benefits they feel and see. Thankfully there are researchers and physicians who help quantify yoga’s special gifts. Dr. Tim Mcgall is a yoga instructor and physician whose own thoracic outlet syndrome was healed by yoga. His website is full of studies that cover the above mentioned issues, and dozens more.
Dr. Mcgall and many others are bringing the therapeutic results of yoga into the mainstream so that yoga therapy is taken more seriously and respected as a healing modality along the lines of massage therapy, hypnosis or acupuncture, all of which are covered by some insurance plans. Organizations such as the International Association of Yoga Therapists exist to raise the bar, collect data and serve as a resource for those pursuing the art and science of yoga therapy.
The byproducts of a great yoga practice are not exclusive to those who practice in caves on the top of a mountain, but rather they are felt by anyone who is instructed well, and who practices with purpose. Even children are reaping the benefits. Numerous schools now implement programs for children of every age and the results are astonishing. My friend’s 11 year old daughter Miriam (not her real name) suffered from recurring headaches that have magically “disappeared” since she started practicing yoga in school.
The homework headache
Children are more susceptible than ever to having massive pains in their neck, shoulders and upper back for 3 reasons:
1) Their backpacks are heavier than ever
2) More homework (and recreation) is done staring for hours on end at a computer monitor
3) Cutbacks in physical education programs
Luckily, many volunteer organizations are bringing yoga into kids classrooms around the country to help fill this void. With back-breaking backpacks and weaker children, no wonder they are having neck and shoulder pain. Computer monitors lock the eyes rigidly in place, and the muscles that stabilize the eyeballs (the subocciptals) thread all the way into the back of the neck. Too much tension there leads directly to headaches. Additionally, if their seated posture is a slouch, this will also add to the problem.
Twice a week, Miriam’s school invites a Yoga Ed teacher to make yoga a fun, playful and spirited time. Her classmates’ grades have improved. The Attention Deficit Disorder in the room has been on the wane and most importantly, Miriam is starting to become aware of her physical body and wants to continue to take care of her young mind, body and heart!
Miriam’s favorite kid friendly poses are:
1) Pose of the East
This pose strengthens the back and reverses “backpack slump.”
2) Downward Dog at the Fire Hydrant
Creates the obvious giggles, but it also strengthens and opens her entire body!
3) Child’s Pose
She loves to feel like she’s in a “hiding spot.” And this inwardly folded pose is profoundly relaxing to any nervous system.
What secondary benefits have you noticed from your yoga practice? Share your yoga therapy story!
(Reprinted with permission from Gaiam Life)
Help your kids experience bliss! – Read the article.
My 8-year-old daughter already suffers from the same headaches that I do, along with my sisters and mom. I love being able to use relaxation techniques with her to help. She likes extending her exhales longer than her inhales to help calm her down and get to sleep easier. She also loves when her music teacher offers “mindfulness Mondays” – all the kids were talking about how great it was – in fact, it was one of my daughter’s highlights of the school year. So yes! More yoga, rolling and mindfulness in the schools, in music and drama club, on the sports fields, and in whatever activities and passions the kids – and us as the big kids – choose to take part in.
Thank-you for sharing and raising awareness on this issue as it is a wide spread problem in today’s youth. My friend is a Gr. 5 teacher and has implemented quiet time breaks where the kids can use mats that she keeps in her classroom to sit in child’s pose or shavasana. Miriam’s favorite poses are great! Your last sentence I think sums up the greatest benefit that Miriam’s yoga will bring her, the interest, desire and motivation to continue to learn about her body and take care it. This is something we can all embrace more in our day to day lives. =:0)
My 2 boys have also been practicing yoga as much as we can around the rest of their schedule. It has helped to teach them to breathe to relax and other wonderful benefits. My older son tends to be reluctant to go to class, but I always remind him of the benefits he has reaped from this practice and ask him whether the challenge he is feeling more comes from his body really needing the work.
Both boys complain of headaches at times. I will need to let them know about this added benefit from yoga to help remind them why it is important for them to keep going.
This article is essential. I am currently teaching a 15 year old girl who suffers from migraine headaches and school stress!!! I can see how overwhelmed she is in her body when we being our yoga class. Her shoulders are elevated, her joints are stiff. I tend to do many relaxation poses with her as well as meditation techniques, but this article has opened up my eyes to see that the big broad poses can be equally balancing. I hope she enjoys the heart opening and joy that comes from this practice. I will incorporate Pose of the East and Downward Dog at the Fire Hydrant! Her favorite pose is child’s pose where she can rock on her third eye center and relieve so much of her mental and physical tension.
I love this post and couldn’t agree more. There are so many factors that work against children and teens in school these days, including those that you mentioned. In addition, now kids and teens are constantly looking at phones and ipads during their non school hours – not to mention the time spent hunched over video games. Yoga can be a fun physical remedy with psychological and emotional benefits too. I’m hoping that as more educators see the lived benefits of yoga we will begin to see more yoga offered in our schools. The research is quickly catching up too! I’m part of a research study looking at the effects of yoga on teens with mental health issues and have heard so much positive feedback from the youth so far. I’ve seen youth better able to manage pain symptoms including headaches, GI issues, and back and neck pain. In addition, almost all of the youth I’ve worked with have reported being better able to manage school, home and peer related stress. I hope that more of us participate in research in order to give yoga the credence it deserves! Thanks so much for this post!
I really REALLY enjoyed reading this post and was inspired by the work happening with yoga in schools. I truly believe that some of my own back discomfort stems from the heavy backpack I had to wear in school trekking a mile a day from school to home and that attention to the area during my pre-teen/teen years could have prevented pain I experience today.
It’s nice to see how some school districts are paying attention to the problem. As a student in a yoga teacher training program, I’ve been questioning what I’m going to do with all my learnings post training. I’ve always enjoyed working with kids and I’m starting to think that perhaps focusing on yoga with children could be a path for me…
I taught my sixteen year old daughter who suffers from test-taking anxiety some simple pranayama techniques to help her quell those nerves. Since learning to breathe properly in a stressful situation, she reports fewer episodes of test panic, boasts higher scores, and retains much more information than she did before. Behold the power of yoga!
My 8 year old has anxiety already! He has always been very sensitive to his environment but being in a school system that grades every item of work that he turns in, pressure has increased. I want to be able to take him to a kid’s yoga class but there are few out there. After reading this, I’m inspired to do yoga at home with him. I tried this when he was younger but it usually turned into a wrestling match 🙂 Thanks for the reminder.
the “like” button needs to be a “love” button on this one…
my eldest son (8 years old) suffers from headaches and migraines. his situation is a little more complicated, due to poor eyesight and environmental allergies, but he is certainly subject to the issues you raise in the article above.
i will be adding the postures you mention above to his repertoire…
we also use the balls on his shoulders and upper back… though he doesn’t roll them himself yet, his mom and i partner roll them on him at this point… but it works are the same. 🙂
thanks, Jill. your help work and innovation has been a blessing to me, my family and my students. you are truly a gift.
I’m starting a volunteer yoga program for kids at the school I’ll be teaching at, so this is really helpful! I LOVE the cute pose names like “downward dog at the fire hydrant.” I think I’m going to have to come up with some new names for the poses.
This point is right on – with amount of information streams modern media forces on our children, maintaining mental and emotional tranquil is harder than ever. In addition to long hours in front of the computers and over the books, inevitable sceleton changes do occur, and not necessarily toward a good posture. One side of the solution is on the schools’ administration – to see the benefits of yoga to their students. My question though is how to spark the interest in 16-yr old teendagers? My daughter went to yoga class with me once or twice in 3 years – it doesn’t excite her. I was taking to some of her classmates about teaching yoga in their school and the response was that “yoga is for sissies”. I am going through a teacher training program and would greatly benefit and appreciate if you can share some suggestions on how to break through this faulty perception.
I wish all educators could read this article and hopefully “push” to have Yoga classes in their schools. As a former NYC teacher, I wholeheartedly agree with your article
FUNNY…I CALL DOWN DOG AT THE FIRE HYDRANT…PEEING DOG! BRINGS LAUGHTER IN THE KIDS WHICH IS ALSO AN AWESOME WAY TO RELIEVE STRESS!
TEACHING KIDS SUN SALUTATIONS THAT THEY CAN PRACTICE AT HOME IS ANOTHER GREAT TOOL FOR THEM TO DEVELOP THEIR OWN PRACTICE.
I think it is very important to incorporate yoga into schools and the work place. I worked at a charter high school and introduced yoga to one classroom. This was prior to myself becoming a yoga teacher and at first the students were hesitant but one of the students came up to me and said that it has really kept her calm. Even though I no longer work there the school now has yoga as a option to choose for a gym class.
I love the idea of teaching yoga to children at a young age! My daughter isn’t quite old enough yet, but I will be sure to implement the poses you mentioned above with her. Yoga has so many amazing mental and physical benefits. I wish I would have discovered it at a younger age!
My son is only 7 years old and he already is complaining about headaches. From the heavy school bags they have to lug around and the long hours in school. (7 to 4.30)
One of his teachers started to implement stretching techniques, meditation and yoga poses. Some of the parents have been commenting to me how they find that the kids in the class of my son are calmer, happier and better behaved.
Thank you for putting me on to the Pose of the East for relief of backpack slump. Having not yet figured a better way to move my gear around NYC, I find myself trudging with a lot of weight on my back. The Pose of the East reverses the spine slump to to backpack-bearing, and releases tension in my traps.
Thanks a bunch, Ms. Miller! Namaste
As the mother of two teenage girls, I would love to see Yoga in our schools. Being a kid today is not easy! There is so much more stress in their lives then years ago. Yes, the technology can be a wonderful resource, but I agree the children are staying indoors much more to engage in social networking or just endlessly surfing the web. In addition, the pressure of fitting in and making friends seems to be more intense than ever. Kids are maturing too fast and with that comes the loss of a care free, happy-go-lucky existence we enjoyed as children. Yoga is a GREAT idea so these kids can learn to relax, let go and even begin to grasp some important life lessons. Plus, the wonderful sense of community you feel in a yoga class can give the kids the gift of learning compassion and acceptance. Thank you for this thoughtful blog.
Jodi Hurwitz, Student in Pure Yoga Spring 200 hour TT
I would be so wonderful if schools would introduce yoga into the gym class. Kids sit at their computers, doing homework and playing games without moving their bodies for long periods of time and their little bodies suffer. Stress levels are increasing as children have no outlet for this tension trapped in the body. As technology keeps our brains entertained with the newest gagets, our bodies are sacrificed by being so stationary to operate those gagets. Getting children up to do few yoga poses can relieve that tension and they can learn ways to combat stress and notice how they feel. We can create a balanced relationship between body and mind that kids can feel and relate to. I have a few yoga students that are teachers and take a few minutes each day to have the kids do a few yoga stretches & breath consciously and deeply and notice how they feel afterwards. The teachers tell me it makes a hugh difference in the climate of the classroom. Some actually teach their parents those moves.