One can always count on Pooh to remind us of what’s truly important. Those of us that work with children (pediatricians, teachers, therapists, and of course, parents) – if we are paying attention – are constantly reminded that children naturally tend to be “in the moment.” We lose that presence as we age and start to worry more about what came before and what will be. One of the costs of growing older may be a decline in mindfulness, the ability to “be here now,” as Yogi Ram Dass famously urged over 40 years ago. Sadly, though, more and more children are being diagnosed with stress-related disorders like anxiety or depression, robbing them of their abilities to simply enjoy each moment as it comes. Our medical system’s default answer is too often pharmaceutical, and the greatest gifts we can give our kids are the tools to cope with life’s stresses.
There are of course many tools to teach mindfulness, but the most effective in my experience is yoga. In my book, “Treatment Alternatives for Children,” I profile this ancient Indian mind-body practice as an ideal therapy for anxiety among other mental health and neurodevelopmental challenges. Yoga has been shown to be beneficial in many pediatric studies, for conditions including asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, pain, autism, and ADHD. My dear friends and colleagues, Geri Topfer and Penny Feiner from the yoga service nonprofit Kula for Karma, eloquently note, “Every day our children are inundated with stressful stimulation. Through the use of breath and guided meditation, children learn to quiet their minds and understand that they have the personal resources to self-soothe. The practice of yoga offers a road map to inner peace, centeredness, and self confidence.”
What more could we ask for our children?
For those interested in resources related to yoga and mindfulness for children, I’ve compiled a short list below:
For parents and others who work with children:
Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting (Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn)
Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children (Thich Nhat Hanh)
The Mindful Child: How to Help Your Kid Manage Stress and Become Happier, Kinder, and More Compassionate (Susan K Greenland)
YogaKids: Educating The Whole Child Through Yoga (Marsha Wenig)