We are without a doubt living in a world with new stresses and an environment in high gear. With the diagnoses for major depression and/or anxiety disorder five to eight times higher in modern high school and college students compared to fifty to seventy years ago, it seems this increase has more to do with the way the youth of today view the world rather than the world itself. With the steady decline of a child’s free play, comes the loss of confidence in their abilities, ultimately leading to increased stress and worse issues (1).
There are safe and effective ways yoga can support adolescent mental health. By restoring your child’s self-confidence and allowing them to discover their own abilities and philosophies, they can become competent in the pursuit of their own interests. Yoga is a practice of love, compassion, humility and passion. Here are some ways a yoga practice will increase your child’s self-confidence.
1. Builds Self-love
Imagine if we all could have learned about self-love from a young age, how differently would we see the world now? Yoga philosophy encourages that you learn to respect and love yourself first and foremost, only then are you truly able to bestow such feelings on another to their full capacity and be open to their love and respect in return. How are you to expect others to treat you better than you are treating yourself? Sharing this lesson with your child will give them the opportunity to experience life in a whole new light, open to the possibilities of love and acceptance while putting less pressure on them to be someone they are not or to run themselves down.
Finding self-love is a powerful, life-changing way to walk through this world but it does take practice to master. A great way to introduce your child to it would be through mantras. “Aham Prema” or “I am divine love” is a great mantra to heal and recover self-worth. You can do this with or without mala beads. You can find more confidence-boosting mantras here.
Mantras are also a fun way to introduce children to another part of yoga aside from the breathing and postures. Using mantra chanting with children is often a successful practice as they are more open to being vocal and enjoy the benefits of singing and chanting more readily than adults. Some of the many positive effects that can be obtained from practicing mantras include increased concentration/learning, a calmed mind, and boosted immunity.
2. Increased Feel Good Endorphins
The release of endorphins or “feel good” chemicals from the brain that come from a yoga session are the ultimate weapon to fight against stress and depression. Acting as natural painkillers, endorphins lower cortisol (stress hormones) and bring about an overall sense of happiness and wellbeing. The results of reduced cortisol and increased endorphins are not immediate, but with regular practice your child will become more relaxed, happier and more confident.
3. Lose the Competitive Mindset
Not that a little healthy competition does not have its benefits but the debate is still weighing the pros vs. the cons of competing for kids.Whether it is for a trophy or bragging rights, yoga is a discipline that knocks those reasons for competing out the door. It is not a contest, there is no trophy. The practice is done for your child and your child alone. They decide what they will strive for and what their intentions are.
It still requires setting goals and sometimes a strict discipline to achieve a peak pose, yet no judges are scoring their movements. Yoga is a perfect platform for your child to find themselves without the added fear of not being good enough or the pressure casted on them to be the best.
Setting aside any idea that they are performing will not only release stress but build a strong foundation for lasting confidence in their abilities to challenge themselves and follow through on their goals without a scorecard telling them if it is good enough.
4. Improved Athletic Performance
If your child is already competing in the athletic world, yoga may be just the thing to help keep them safe and set them apart from the rest. The mind-body connection that comes from a yoga practice is something that will make your child more aware of their abilities and limitations, making them a better contender in their sport both physically and mentally. Other benefits for athletes include increased flexibility as well as aiding in the prevention of injury (2).
5. Helps Them Focus
The mind boosting benefits of yoga that create focus and concentration do not stop when your child steps off their mat. Studies have shown that little yogis use their newfound attributes in the classroom, getting better grades. The driving force behind children's yoga is getting them to find their creative side and build their confidence within (3), which will shine through on the outside as well.
6. Teaches Them to Let Go
One of the most beautiful lessons anyone can take from their yoga practice is embracing their humility. This is your child’s practice, no one else's. The rules of yoga are to leave the ego and the judgement out the door. Your mat is your sacred place. Pride has no place there to either put you either above or below a certain rank.
Yoga teaches you to go deeper within, find your breath and discipline yourself to achieve the pose you want. It teaches you to know your limitations but also strive to conquer a posture or a way of thinking. The only way to become confident in a pose is by falling out of it and trying again, realizing that it doesn’t hurt and neither does your pride, because you didn’t bring it with you, right?
This simple act of letting go, though it comes with practice, can be mastered. Beyond that the possibilities of their abilities are endless. To let go of judgement, to be free from the worry of humiliation, can bring about a positive impact on a child who deals with bullying or stress from social situations and help them cope with those confusing emotions.
Whether it be at home, school, in sports/social situations, or as a way to cope with stress, yoga has an abundance of benefits on your child and their confidence levels. A regular practice is often the best way to reap the rewards continuously but any time is a good time to start.
(Read this next: 7 Benefits of Meditation for Your Mind, Body and Spirit or visit our friends at BestfortheKids.com and learn more about Yoga for kids!)