The Benefits of Yoga for Families

Mindfulness Matters

By Deven Sisler

John Macedo

Yoga is the union of breath with movement. When we place our full attention on this junction of the mind and body we become fully present in the current moment. Yoga is very different from other forms of exercise because we become more mindful during the practice. Mindfulness can help alleviate an excess of anxiety, fear, guilt, stress, and distraction, while creating more space for connection, trust, and compassionate communication. Cultivating mindfulness through yoga can empower children and families to extend this state of calm to other activities, like doing homework, dealing with an argument, studying for a test or household chores.

Yoga is a practice that is over two thousand years old and finds its origins in India, although it is now a global phenomenon. There has been controversy on how religious the practice is as it continues to evolve. It can be a spiritual practice, but doesn’t have to be; this really depends on the specific teacher. Since 2012, yoga practitioners have increased from 20.4 million to over 36 million, “The data tells a compel- ling story,” says Carin Gorrell, editor in chief of Yoga Journal. “More people than ever across all age groups are realizing the bene ts of yoga, from stress relief to flexibility to overall well-being.” Yoga is a thriving, growing industry.

Yoga can help children focus, self- regulate emotions, build positive stress tolerance and even provide great cross training for competitive sports. Founder of the Himalayan Institute, Swami Rama says, “Controlling the breath is a prerequisite to controlling the mind and the body. The benefits of yoga for school age children are numerous, as more and more scientific research is showing, while reports from kids themselves are the best indicators of its positive effects. Local mother, Jaimie Hamman, reports that the second grade was a hard time for her son because he was labeled a “busy body,” but that this year, after starting yoga, they have not received one call concerning behavior issues. Her son told her it was because of yoga, “I feel comfortable being still and quiet in a loud, fast world after doing yoga.”

Studies indicate that children with continual exposure to stress experience delayed brain development due to an excess of cortisol in the system, which can impact their academic and social performance lifelong (thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/ episode/474/transcript). Studies also suggest that practicing yoga might have other health bene ts such as reducing heart rate and blood pressure, and may also help relieve anxiety and depression (nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm). Yoga offers tools so that children and families can handle stress in a positive way, avoiding its negative long-term effects while building long lasting life skills together.

“Yoga provides us with a set of tools for creating space be- tween the input of life experiences and the output of our reactions. In that space we can pay attention. We can notice what we are feeling, think for a moment and make decisions. Once we learn how to nd that space, we can use it to take control of our own lives,” says Jennifer Cohen Harper, author of Little Flower Yoga for Kids.

“As a brand new parent, yoga and a five-minute meditation every day have helped keep me calm and helps me release tension. It helps me slowly rebuild core strength, regain my posture and get to know this new body. The connection to breath has been really important,” says Chelsey Magness, professional multi-sport athlete, and local acrobatics teacher.

The positive results of yoga can be exponential when families practice together. Becca Krauss, local acupuncturist says, “Practicing yoga together helps my daughter and I connect, while the practice itself helps us regulate our emotions. We have almost no blow-ups, tantrums or arguments now.”

Parents have the powerful opportunity to model learning, vulnerability, experience co-learning, and play. They can also model new patterns of compassionate communication and guided conflict resolution. Children will feel the impact in watching their parents strive to make positive change.

How to Get Started with Yoga:

Namaspa Yoga Community in Bend and Redmond Weekly kids yoga classes, family workshops & kids yoga teacher training. Namaspa.com

Chickadee Yoga with Leah Skinner Prenatal, Mommy & me classes LeahSkinnerYoga.com

Tribe Women’s Fitness Free babysitting 6 days a week TribeWomensFitness.com

Tula Movement Arts Parents and baby yoga, pre and post-natal classes, kids yoga, acroyoga. All levels welcome. Tulamovementarts.com

Yoga Anytime Try a free two-week trial of an online video streaming service. Bring yoga into your own home on your own schedule. YogaAnytime.com

Deven Sisler has been teaching children and families yoga and mindful- ness for over twelve years. She is an outdoor enthusiast, a certified E-RYT 200 Childrens’ Yoga & AcroYoga Teacher based in Bend Oregon. She offers inspiring, fun and inclusive weekly classes, intensives and teacher train- ings. Learn more DevenSislerYoga.com

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