Yoga for children with anxiety.

Yoga and mindfulness can help children and adolescents with severe anxiety.

As a yoga teacher of children for the past six years and with my personal practice, I have learnt effective ways to control my own anxiety, and fortunately I been able to pass this on to my children and the children in my yoga classes.

Hopefully, with this understanding and mindfulness training, they will be better equipped to face challenges (that are just part of life) and better control negative thoughts and unhelpful ways of dealing with stress.

The facts

One in three children now have a formal diagnosis of anxiety in Australia, with the youngest only four years of age! This is a worrying statistic, considering that anxiety can contribute to other diseases and physical conditions, such as obesity, heart disease and an array of other mental and physical ailments.

What is anxiety?

  •   It is a normal response to a perceived threat.
  •   It is a physical, behavioural and cognitive response in the body.
  •   Humans have it to protect us from danger and some stress is good for us, but when it is out of control it can have a debilitating effect on individuals.  
  •   Some level of anxiety is good for us as it gives us energy and motivation to do our best and get things done.  

The development of anxiety can come from biological/genetic influences, general temperament, stress or trauma that has occurred in a child’s life, or environmental learning influences. In other words we can role model positive responses to anxiety or negative ones.  

For the non-competitive child who may present with signs of anxiety, a yoga class could be the best option.  

How yoga and mindfulness can help

Yoga is recommended as a complementary therapy for people with anxiety. Yoga reduces cortisol levels, which is a stress hormone, and on-going practice can work at levelling out an ongoing mental health issue where cortisol has increased over time. Yoga helps to make participants more aware of their mind and body connection. As you move through postures and breathe, noticing how you move and feel at the same time heightens. Responding to feelings relating to anxiety and registering all sensations in the body are enhanced. It then becomes ‘a mindful meditation.’

Yoga poses, coupled with mindfulness and breathing practices, assists children to take control of their ‘monkey mind’ and learn to be still for a moment.  

Words by Tracey Maclay

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