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.”

Pose of the East

2) Downward Dog at the Fire Hydrant

Creates the obvious giggles, but it also strengthens and opens her entire body!

Downward Dog at the Fire Hydrant

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.

Child’s Pose

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.

Learn about our “Yoga For Beginners” products.

Jill Miller

Jill Miller, C-IAYT, ERYT is the co-founder of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide and creator of the self-care fitness formats Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model® Method. With more than 30 years of study in anatomy and movement, she is a pioneer in forging relevant links between the worlds of fitness, yoga, massage, athletics and pain management. She is known as the Teacher’s Teacher and has trained thousands of movement educators, clinicians, and manual therapists to incorporate her paradigm shifting self-care fitness programming into athletic and medical facility programs internationally. She has crafted original programs for 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, YogaWorks, and numerous professional sports teams. She and her team of 500+ trainers help you to live better in your body with an emphasis on proprioception, mobility, breath mechanics and recovery. She has presented case studies at the Fascia Research Congress and International Association of Yoga Therapy conferences. She has the rare ability to translate complex physiological and biomechanical information into accessible, relevant moves that help her students transform pain, dysfunction and injury into robust fitness. Jill is the anatomy columnist for Yoga Journal Magazine and has been featured in Shape, Men’s Journal, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, Yoga Journal, Self, and on the Today Show and Good Morning America. Jill is regularly featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is the creator of dozens of DVD’s including Treat While You Train with Kelly Starrett DPT and is the author of the internationally bestselling book The Roll Model: A Step by Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility and Live Better in your Body. Based in Los Angeles, CA, she is a wife and mother of two small children and is currently writing her second book.

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Janice Quirt

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… Read more »

Kelly Cameron

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… Read more »

Maya Bogatch

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… Read more »

Margo Brooke Pellmar

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… Read more »

Elise Gibney

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!… Read more »

Lauren F

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… Read more »

Nathania

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!

Amanda Z

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.

todd lavictoire

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. 🙂… Read more »

Emily Tsay

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.

Natasha Gurevich

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 –… Read more »

melanie sloane

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

cindy

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.

Kenya B.

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.

Jesse

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!

Bianca

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.

Z Curtis

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

Z Curtis

Jodi Hurwitz

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… Read more »

Joelene Marinone

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… Read more »