Think yoga is just for stressed-out adults? Think again. The benefits of yoga can be reaped by preschoolers, and it's gaining popularity with the young set. Not just in typically developing kids, either.
In addition to helping build balance, coordination, strength and focus, kids who do yoga learn valuable tools like confidence, cooperation, and self-regulation.
When I was shopping around for extracurriculars for my six year-old son, yoga wasn't the first hobby that sprang to mind. I knew he wasn't coordinated enough for most sports and was too fearful to resume swimming lessons just yet. And he was really struggling with anxiety and motor planning.
I was considering a martial art. Then I heard about Yoga4Kids, run by Sherry LeBlanc, a yoga therapist specially trained to teach children with differences—be it autism, Down's syndrome, or ADHD.
After a phone call, she reassured me that by all means I should take my son and try a group class. I was skeptical, I admit. My son had never done a class independently before. Would he listen? Would he be able to focus for 45 minutes without running amok? Would he need private lessons?
My worries were put to bed after the first class. LeBlanc runs her small ship of five or so kids tightly. She manages (somehow) to hold the kids' interest while striking the perfect balance between firm and nurturing.
Initially, it was edge of the seat stuff. My son had trouble "zipping his lip" and simply following the instructor's directives. But a few lessons in, he was hooked—and so was I. He quickly memorized his salutation, together with so many fun animal poses. He practiced slow breathing, which will hopefully come in handy throughout his life at times when he needs to calm himself.
As a parent, I can't tell you how wonderful it is to observe him sitting on his mat with the other kids—some with, some without special needs—as the banter alternates between melt-your-heart precious and hysterical. Who knew five and six year-olds had so much to say about butterflies... Some live in the Bahamas; others in the garbage!
My guy is now ready to begin his second round of yoga under the tutelage of Ms LeBlanc. If you don't have time to fit in a class, why not try teaching your little one some poses at home.
Who knows, it could be a fun activity for you to do together.