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Yogi the Kid

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It is never too early to ingrain into your children’s little developing minds that physical activity is simply a part of life. We’ve tried gymnastics, swimming, strength training 101 with daddy; it’s been an ongoing journey for us. Enter yoga.

The spectrum of benefits derived from regular yoga practice are probably far more extensive than you are aware, and the individual rewards may be even better for children than adults. Research has shown that yoga is one of the best methods to expedite exercise recovery, decrease the intensity of DOMS, and improve post-exercise flexibility. It can also be a low-impact method of gradually improving cardiorespiratory health and fitness. If you are concerned about how that screen time is influencing your child’s cognitive development, yoga has been shown to positively induce blood flow to the brain, as well as improve executive functioning and working memory capabilities. But let’s get down to the real important issue: movement patterns.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with hundreds of children in the area of athletic development thanks to my experience with schools and with organizations such as the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA). There are a few general issues and trends I see when it comes to children and physical activity, the most prominent being specialization. I have been approached countless times about helping with the speed, strength, and overall physical conditioning of elementary-aged children, and I’ve adamantly refused each time. In regards to athletic development, young athletes and children should focus first and foremost on developing proper movement patterns. As a ton of research has shown, focusing on specific sports or sport-specific skills too early can not only stunt overall athletic development, but can also greatly increases risk for injuries. While I am as guilty as any father of having aspirations of my daughter following in daddy’s footsteps and getting serious into competitive sports, developing a love and understanding for movement and moving properly has to take precedence. Before a child (or anybody) can move fast, powerfully, and with precision, they have to learn how to fire the correct muscles, without asymmetry or inhibition, and be injury free. Moving improperly is inefficient and it hurts—a dynamic duo that will quickly turn your fitness ninja into a couch potato. Although there are many means to developing proper movement patterns, there are few (if any) better options than yoga when the pupil is a kindergartner.

And the tertiary benefits of yoga are vast. Like every other five year old, mastery of listening and time management are successfully eluding my princess. Getting down her peach cinnamon roll groats and transitioning from her pajamas to school uniform before having to make the dirty dash through the sand pit to the bus stop used to be a struggle, but no more thanks to the motivation provided by the possibility of doing yoga with Elsa. The last few days she’s managed to get in an entire 30 minutes before school. This morning I watched in amazement as her two-year-old brother got dressed without going into full Viking berserker mode or climbing our bedroom furniture like the ropes of a WWE ring because instead he wanted to join her and Harry Potter in utkatasana (chair pose). Yoga is also a great, if awkward, negative behavior deterrent. Didn’t think the statement “Clean your room or no Star Wars yoga” would ever come out of my mouth, but so is the life of a parent.

Shouldn’t be long before she is doing headstands on a paddleboard like mommy.Still haven’t detailed how we are going to tie exercise into her financial fitness education, but by the time we do I may have to inquire about a home equity loan to afford her physical progression. For the time being, those pink gymnastics rings I have set up in the garage can wait while she perfects her asanas. We can set our sights on American Ninja Warrior junior after the new year.

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