When Jennifer Vizina brings pre-kindergarten and primary school children into her yoga classes she’s not just teaching the basics of yoga.
According to Vizina and researchers, yoga offers children an improvement in various health metrics, behavioral markers, emotional situations and medical conditions. As a result, according to L. Black at the National Center for Health Statistics, 4.9 million children in the U.S. used yoga in 2017 alone.
There are many benefits, Vizina said, who has been teaching the 30 minute story time yoga class and the 45 minute yoga adventure class at the Wantagh Public Library for six years. “They get to do a separation class from their caregivers. They have a little autonomy. They get to be creative. They get to hear a book. They get to move their bodies, which to me is number one. I also teach them turn-taking. I pack in quite a lot.”
Vizina doesn’t think her yoga class is anything new.
“I’m sure there’s yoga teachers all over the country doing some kind of story time,” Vizina said. “But I haven’t ever seen it as ‘Yoga Story Adventures’.”
There are teachers who offer yoga story time across the globe. There is one person called the “yogibrarian” in Fort Collins, Colorado who offers it. Storytime Yoga, based in Australia, teaches it as a specific kind of yoga certification. There is also Lizzy Luna in Salt Lake City who teaches yoga story time.
Vizina didn’t know about any of them. She came up with the idea on her own. She said she would do “Yoga Adventures” where the children use their imaginations to do the next yoga pose. So she combined that with the story time and got “Yoga Story Adventures.”
“I look for toddlers who are almost older kids, who are interested in books, understand instructions and are curious,” Vizina said.
According to researchers, there are several benefits of yoga for children.
Yoga can improve children’s concentration and focus.
“The percentage of intervals observed where the students had eye contact with the teacher or assigned task, and performed the requested classroom assignments,” according to H. Peck in the School Psychology Review, showed an improvement of a 16 percent increase to 21 percent increase over the course of a day.
Vizina rewards that focus with one-on-one attention.
“If somebody’s really trying to do something, I’ll come closer to them and say, ‘Can you try it like this,'” Vizina said.
According to J. Folleto in the International Journal of Yoga, yoga heightens children’s flexibility, strength and balance.
“Children . . . demonstrated significant and positive changes in overall motor abilities scores,” Folleto said in their paper.
Vizina takes the opportunity to teach the children about a variety of subjects in her class.
“I want to expose them to geography, and different parts of nature, and different kinds of animals,” Vizina said.
Which is useful, since yoga can lead to better academic performance. In a randomized, controlled study by M. Hagins in the journal Mind, Brain and Education, they found, “mean year GPA is significantly higher among students assigned to yoga as compared to Physical Education.”
Vizina goes out of her way in her class to improve confidence and self-esteem in the children she instructs.
“I also just want them to feel creative and have fun,” Vizina said. “I don’t want anybody to ever feel wrong.”
Vizina does this because yoga can help with confidence and self-esteem.
According to R. Tejvani in the scientific ayurvedic journal Ayu, “Two weeks of Yoga practice potentially reduced anxiety and depression and improved self-esteem of orphanage adolescents.”
“It’s relaxing,” said Sadie, a child in Vizina’s class.
Which is proven: yoga can improve children’s behavior and self-control.
According to R. Razza in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, “There was also some evidence that the children who were most at risk of self-regulation dysfunction benefited the most from the intervention.”
“[It helps] them relax and learn how to calm down, and exercise,” said Cathy Limandri, who brought her daughter Emilia to the class.
Yoga encourages children to eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle.
According to A. Watts in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, “Regular yoga practice was associated with more servings of fruits and vegetables, fewer servings of sugar-sweetened beverages and snack foods, less frequent fast food consumption, and more hours of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.”
According to S. Radhakrishna in the International Journal of Yoga, yoga offers “improvement in [autistic] children’s imitation skills especially pointing to body, postural and oral facial movements. Parents reported change in the play pattern of these children with toys, peers and objects at home.”
This means yoga lessens the negative effects of autism in children.
For all these reasons and more, to Vizina, there’s no better place to be than in a children’s yoga class.
“I just love books and I love little kids,” Vizina said. “Yoga and books go together so well.”