The Power of Yoga: Building Emotional Resilience in Children

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

Hello, my name is Jessie and I have been teaching yoga to adults for 8 years. In 2018 I trained to become a children’s yoga teacher through YogaBugs and Special Yoga. The techniques in each of these are very different and I began to bring together aspects of both to use depending on the needs of the children I worked with.

How Does Yoga Work for Children?

I taught classes to children of all ages in various schools all over London and soon began to develop the mental flexibility to break away from the ‘seriousness’ of yoga and enter the imaginative realm where all things are possible.

Sometimes I taught a fun, energetic, story-based class, during which we acted out the classic children’s stories with our bodies and voices - climbing up beanstalks and stomping our feet like giants shouting ‘FEE FI FO FUM’! Such practices are designed to excite children with low arousal while discharging other’s hyperarousal (especially useful for those diagnosed with ADHD), leaving us all feeling exhausted as we collapse into Savasana - corpse/relaxation pose.

In other classes I opted for a more gentle, floor-based and grounding practice to bring children more into their bodies and out of their busy minds (especially useful for children with ASD).

To celebrate International Day of Yoga, we would like to share this children’s yoga session with you, that focuses on relaxation. We encourage you to set aside 20 mins this evening to allow your child to explore these exercises with us.

Building Self Awareness and Emotional Resilience through Children’s Yoga

It is no surprise that yoga is becoming more and more popular in an increasingly

over-stimulating world, where more people desire healthy practices and tools to ground and stay connected to themselves and others. I believe that it is more valuable than ever to offer this tool to children before the weight of the world becomes too heavy.

Yoga is a great way to teach children how to become aware of their own body, mood states and reactions, while providing them with a tool to use in any situation to calm themselves down - regulating their breathing, relaxing areas of tension in the body and returning to a state of mental equilibrium.

Breathe in for 4 and out for 6 - continue for 3 x minutes or more. This technique in itself can increase oxygen to the blood, lower the heart rate, increase parasympathetic arousal (which calms down the nervous system), improve focus, a sense of presence and safety in one's own body, reduce stress and prime the brain for learning. This is just one of many simple yet powerful techniques that yoga has to offer.

A young girl finishes her Children's yoga session with The Key Clinic
A young girl finishes her Children's yoga session with The Key Clinic

A consistent yoga practice can reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, stress, anxiety, eliminate toxins and prevent disease. It can also help an individual to regulate their nervous system, increase vagal tone, flexibility of their spine, muscles and joints, circulation, respiration, immunity, postural control, concentration, interoception, digestion, balance, coordination, strength, sleep and elevate mood states.

Self-awareness is one of the main skills that you develop in yoga and if this can be developed from a younger age it is likely that we could mitigate a number of physical and mental health issues from developing later on. For example, Yoga promotes healthy body-image and confidence which can be game-changing in the face of the relentless pressures surrounding body image.

Yoga is a powerful and ancient practice that involves not only the physical practice or ‘asana’ but how that practice can be applied off the mat during daily interactions with yourself, others and the environment. You can refer to Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga if you would like to read more about this.

Can Yoga help Children with Symptoms of Conditions like Autism and ADHD?

An article written by Marlyn Wei (2019) in Children’s Health states:

Yoga is beneficial to children of all ages, but it has been found to be particularly so for kids with special needs. Studies have shown that yoga benefits children with autism and ADHD. Researchers at a Bronx public school that had a daily yoga program, found that it reduced kids' aggressive behavior, social withdrawal, and hyperactivity, compared with a control group of kids with autism who did not practice yoga.

Kristie Patten Koenig, Ph.D., an associate professor of occupational therapy at New York University who led the study, says that yoga was effective because it seemed to play to the strengths of kids with autism while also reducing stress.

Autism Key, an autism support website, says that yoga helps address kids' heightened anxiety, poor motor coordination, and weak self-regulation, something that otherwise is very difficult to do.’

A child in a moment of calm during their Yoga practice at The Key Clinic, building resilience and self awareness.
A child in a moment of calm during their Yoga practice at The Key Clinic

With this in mind, we will soon be offering an under 5’s neurodevelopmental programme that combines a playful movement, sound and story-based yoga practice with evidence-based, neurodevelopmental exercises to help mature their nervous systems in a playful way and teach them tools that they can use off the mat to build their resilience before the academic and social pressures intensify.

If you would like to see updates for this Key Clinic programme and more, you can follow us on our social media below.

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