With the constant bombardment of media and other distractions, and the incredible amount of sugar most children consume, getting kids to focus on anything can be very challenging. But to grow into healthy, balanced adults, our children need to learn how to concentrate – for school, but also for the rest of life. Children are being diagnosed with various diseases and given legal prescription drugs to help them be able to pay attention. But healthy dietary and lifestyle choices, including practicing yoga, can go a long way in supporting children to be more focused, creative, and balanced.
Why Yoga Helps Children Concentrate
Yoga and meditation teach us to be present in the moment. They train us to observe ourselves and our environment in a non-reactionary way. Over time, this training allows us to engage and interact with the present moment without being caught up in thinking about the past or future.
A consistent (at least 2-3 times per week) yoga practice improves cognitive function, creativity, and memory. Yoga practice clears the mental clutter, which enables clarity and the ability to respond thoughtfully rather than react.
Children’s minds are more malleable than adults’, and they respond to new behaviors and experiences more readily. And while this means they are more sensitive to overwhelming visual and auditory stimulation like video games and cell phone screens, it also means children can more easily adopt new habits.
Practicing yoga trains children focus all their attention on breathing and the movements of the body. They needs to be fully present in the moment to follow the directions. With consistent practice over the course of a few months, this cultivation of the ability to be present in Yoga translates to more presence in all aspects of life, especially learning.
Physiologically, yoga practice increases children’s ability to concentrate by balancing the nervous and cardiovascular systems. Children who practice yoga breathe more deeply. They are less likely to produce the stress hormones that damage nervous systems and interfere with learning ability.
Yoga helps create balance in the endocrine system, which regulates the creation and release of hormones. Hormones are part of what creates mood, and mood is what determines children’s ability to receive and retain information. Over time, a regular yoga practice can help children relax more easily and develop increased will power and self-control. Eventually yoga practice helps children have greater concentration and focus.
Finding Yoga for Your Children
You can find kid’s yoga almost anywhere these days. Community centers, yoga studios, not-for-profit organizations, and even schools offer affordable or free yoga classes for children. Learning in a group environment is helpful, as they can mimic the other kids and enjoy the energy of being in a group all practicing together. This makes yoga feel more like a social activity than another chore.
If attending classes is not possible, there are a variety of DVDs, online videos, and books of children’s yoga. Many of them are simple enough for older children to practice with on their own, or explained in such a way that you can easily teach your children. Even just a few minutes each day of breathing deeply and exploring a few poses can have tremendous benefits.
Keep it simple at first, so your child does not get overwhelmed. Talk about yoga as something fun for your child to explore with you, not a forced chore or punishment. Find a practice that includes balance poses, which have the most direct effect on improving concentration. And encourage your child to focus her gaze on something while she is practicing, like a poster on the wall or a plant, to help develop her concentration even more.
Practicing yoga can help improve your children’s concentration because it teaches them how to quiet and focus the mind. Yoga also balances the nervous and endocrine systems, making learning easier. Over time, Yoga can help your children learn more, retain and recall information, and be able to focus better in all aspects of life.
Ron McDiarmid is the founder of My Healthy Living Coach. Having had health challenges along the way Ron was keen to share the research and learning he gathered. Through MHLC this continued into a current presentation of healthy lifestyle choices and how to implement them. Check out his website at www.myhealthylivingcoach.com