I’ve been doing yoga since 2000. Back then when I saw young kids practicing yoga, I was a bit skeptical of the whole concept of yoga and kids. I thought then that “forcing” kids to be quiet or do yoga postures seemed counter to what kids should be doing which was playing, being hyper, being loud and just being kids. But then as I started practicing mindful parenting with my own children, I realized that simple things like taking a deep breath can be extremely useful to help calm and relax a child. As I learned more, I realized that mindfulness or yoga should not be viewed as a “forced layer of control” (Mindful Schools), but that it is a toolkit to provide to young children to help them recenter.
Mindfulness practices for littles provide short bursts of awareness repeatedly. Kids can’t be expected to sit for long meditations, or even meditate at all, but mindfulness can be applied in everything we do and doesn’t have to be a prolonged activity. So if we can find opportunities where we can help our children calm down, relax and deliberately tune into the present-moment even for a few moments, then we are strengthening some of the most important functions of their “thinking” brain. It’s worth noting that children’s “thinking” brains don’t fully develop until they are in their mid-20s. The more we can help them exercise these underdeveloped capacities, the more guidance we are giving them on- how to think before they act, how to relax, how to be aware of themselves and others, how to be compassionate, how to handle fear, how to regulate their own emotions- just a few of the important social and emotional skills our children need as they grow up.
There should be no misconception that once kids start practicing mindfulness that all of a sudden they will no longer be hyper, loud or do all the chaotic things that kids love to do. But if we regularly practice mindfulness with our children then they are likely to be a bit more aware of their own emotions and more importantly be empowered to pause and respond vs. react on autopilot.