Yoga and Mindfulness can help children in so many ways.
It is easy and quick to add it into their day at home, school or therapy.
There is a growing body of evidence supporting the benefits of Yoga and Mindfulness for children. More research needs to be done, with larger sample sizes that are randomised and controlled trials. That said, there are early indications that:
Yoga & Mindfulness can have benefits for:
- aerobic capacity
- self esteem
- academic performance
- classroom behaviour
- self regulation
- interoceptive awareness
- vestibular sensory system
- proprioceptive sensory system
- core symptoms of ADHD
Sensory Systems and Self Regulation
At Starfish we are particularly interested in Yoga and Mindfulness strategies that support the Vestibular, Proprioceptive and Interoceptive sensory systems. This is because they impact on self regulation. If we can help children with self regulation it will directly impact on behaviour and their ability to function in situations they might find challenging.
Vestibular system – is the sensory system that provides information to our brain about motion, head position and orientation. It is very important for helping us with balance, movement and coordination. The vestibular system begins in the middle ear.
If their Vestibular system isn’t working well, some children might have difficulty regulating their emotions and behaviour. They might seek out anything that activates this system (eg spinning, running, swinging, hanging upside down) or alternatively they could actually need to do the exact opposite to avoid additional vestibular input preferring instead to avoid activities that involves challenging their balance and coordination.
Proprioceptive system – is the sensory system that communicates where our body (and limbs) are, how they are moving and how much strength to apply with our muscles. The proprioceptive system has receptors in the muscles, joints and skin.
If their proprioceptive system isn’t working well, some children might have difficulty regulating their emotions and behaviour as they might not be receiving sufficient prop input or indeed be getting “too much”. They might seek deep pressure (eg jump on beds and lounges, squeeze under mattresses, need lots of tight hugs, run their hands along the hallways etc) or alternatively avoid touch, cuddles, weight, heavy “work” movements for example.
Interoceptive system – is the sensory system that tells us about our internal physiology and the state of our body. There are receptors in all of our organs (including our skin). The Interoceptive system helps us regulate our internal body systems such as hunger, temperature.
If their interoceptive system isn’t working well, some children may have difficulty regulating . And, they might not be able to recognise why they are upset or uncomfortable.
How can Yoga and Mindfulness help?
Most of the research recommends yoga and mindfulness activities that focus on body sensations, how their body is feeling and where. This develops their inner awareness.
The long term goal being to be able to link the “what they are feeling” to the “why they are feeling it”. eg I can feel my heart beat racing, I might be anxious/scared/stressed.
The ultimate goal follows on from – being able to identify a solution eg my heart is racing, I am becoming anxious, I need to….
In addition to developing awareness of sensations, feelings and emotions, doing certain yoga poses can also provide sensory input which activates the vestibular, proprioceptive or interoceptive systems. Some children will find this input calming.
The deep breathing that often goes hand in hand with yoga also helps with self regulation and calming.
There are some fabulous books that are perfect for introducing Yoga and Mindfulness.
There are some great games too.
For our complete list of favourite Yoga and Mindfulness books, games and resources check out our handy list of teaching tips here.
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