Yoga kidI've been reading William J. Broad's book, The Science of Yoga, which explores everything from preventing injuries and the history of Tantra (think Sting and his sex life) to yoga's ability to increase an enzyme called telomerase in our body, a kind of fountain of youth component of biological aging.
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And while there have been some overstatements in the yoga industry about the benefits of yoga (as a tool for aerobic-based weight loss, for instance), it's clear that it's one of the most effective ways to gain strength, endurance, balance and flexibility, not to mention decreasing depression and anxiety. There's a veritable laundry list of reasons to take up the practice.
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Yoga for Kids
This has me thinking of my daughter, who at 3 years old loves the 15-minute program her school does each day. Mainly she likes to bark like a dog during downward dog, roar like a lion ... you get the picture. But on more than one occasion she's scrambled on the couch, folded her legs under her, closed her eyes and said, "Namaste, the light in me sees the light in you."
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So now I play the DVD, YogaKids, for her. Sometimes she just watches the DVD, sometimes she dances around, and sometimes, amazingly, she quietly attempts the poses and settles into them. And while I'm aware that she's not going to start meditating any time soon, I'm encouraged that she's getting the idea that we all have the ability to still our minds when we want to.
In the Wall Street Journal article, "Namaste. Now Nap Time," a 2003 study of 405 K-8 children by California State University, Los Angeles, "found that yoga improved students' behavior, physical health and academic performance, as well as attitudes toward themselves." Another study by Leipzig University cited yoga's ability to reduce aggression and feelings of helplessness in kids. Not bad.
Can Yoga Help Mopey Teens?
But what about teens? After all these formative years are rife with raging hormones, not to mention psychological issues, including body issues, peer pressure, and the general malaise that comes from the power struggle inherent in trying to assert independence under a parent's watchful eye.
Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School recently studied two groups of teenagers, one of which took Kripalu yoga during their PE class for 10 weeks, and one group who didn't. The teens' psychological levels were tested before and after the study, and no surprise here: The yoga teens psychological wellness scores were much higher than the other non-practicing-yoga kids.
Which makes me wonder if we one day we'll hear our kids say, "More yoga, please." In the meantime I'll continuing to practice yoga to vanquish my inner teen, and I hope my daughter will continue to delight in hissing while trying out her cobra pose. Maybe she'll even want to check out a little laughter yoga.