Something for Everyone: How Yoga Can Benefit All Ages

While it was once seen as the domain of new-age practitioners and, let’s face it, hippies, yoga has now become synonymous with wellness even in the mainstream sphere. The range of benefits to your wellbeing range from the psychological to the biochemical, and everyone is talking about it. However, while we’ve now grasped the heath and fitness benefits of yoga, we’re still a little slow in applying them to our children – more fool us. According to Kristin Henningsen, MS, RYT, an adjunct professor with Kaplan University’s School of Health Sciences, ‘Numerous studies have touted the benefits of regular yoga practice for toddlers, children, teenagers, and even college students. In fact, in every stage of life yoga has been noted to increase the heath and wellness of individuals.’


1. Children: Stress is often seen as something that grownups have to deal with, but kids can also suffer from stress. Long school days, friendship dramas and busy parents can all pile on the pressure in your child’s life and Henningsen asserts, ‘This can lead to emotional outbursts, periods of withdrawal, and negative attention-seeking behaviour. Incorporating yoga in to a child’s life can help [your child] build self-esteem, body awareness, improve concentration, and encourage a sense of calmness. Not to mention the physical benefits of improved balance, strength, and flexibility.’


2. Tweens: The stage between childhood and adolescence is an especially poignant time to practice yoga. Yoga instructor Paula Walker points out, ‘Self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-respect are the three most important things for preteen girls to develop as their bodies are changing. Yoga teaches them to become very in touch with their bodies from the inside out.’ The awareness that yoga teaches can seep into every aspect of a tween’s life, leading to more meaningful relationships, mindful nutrition, and a strong template for physical fitness. Henningsen adds, ‘You can instil confidence and independence in your tween by giving him or her the freedom to attend class by themselves or with a friend.’


3. Teenagers: Once your kids are in the full throes of puberty, they are in a time of life that is often associated with disconnect, transitions and anxiety – but yoga can serve as a shelter from the storm. Colleen Morton Busch, senior editor at Yoga Journal, comments, ‘Adolescence, it seems, has become a kind of preterm adulthood, a time when kids face adult issues and concerns but with the emotional intelligence and coping skills of children—and with little societal support for making the transition.’ Nanette E. Tummers states that yoga ‘allows for self-study and self-care as well as development of vital intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, such as improved communications skills, which are critically needed at this developmental stage.’ While teens tend to gravitate towards the classes with the more challenging poses and vigorous asanas, often the most rewarding thing for teenagers is the final resting post or savasana.


4. Young Adults: Between leaving school and setting off into the big, wide world of adulthood, young adults have a heady experience of power and independence, learning to deal with adult relationships and juggle many new responsibilities. In 2007, researchers at the University of Southern Mississippi showed that yoga can increase physical and mental relaxation, decrease emotional reactivity, and improve concentration and academic performance in this age group. Henningsen adds, ‘The study also showed the improved self-awareness, more energy, and a new positive outlook on life. These skills will help carry the young adult into the more challenging roles of later life.’ For this age group, which often requires fitness on a budget, there are many books, podcasts, and videos which offer individuals a chance to deepen their practice of yoga without having to spend large amounts on weekly classes.

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