Can yoga be interesting for children?

Yoga for children, even for very young children, is on the rise. A beneficial practice for its promoters, accidental for some specialists.

“Yoga baby 2 years”, “yoga baby at what age”, “yoga baby happy”… On the Internet, research related to yoga for children, even infants, is numerous. The books on the subject are just as, from Great yoga book for kids on 52 yoga poses for children. And parent-baby yoga or family yoga classes are spreading and showing great interest in the subject.

“Practice evolves,” assures BFMTV.com Brigitte Anne Neveux, Honorary President of the French Federation of Hatha Yoga and yoga teacher. This former inspector of national education, responsible for the IUFM in Mosel for the training of school teachers, is not innocent in the development of this activity: for thirty years she has been one of the most ardent advocates of children’s yoga.

Yoga “for all ages”

“You can do yoga at any age of life,” says Brigitte Anne Neveux, also author of Yoga and children. “And from early childhood.” If it’s not strictly yoga classes, this former inspector evokes a “connection of children with these techniques”.

“Yoga is a medium. I did it with preschoolers, even with babies who went to daycare.”

The psychotherapist Catherine Lefevre, representative of the French association of psychomotorists, can boast of several contributions to the youngest: both in terms of balance, coordination, dissociation, flexibility, strength or even precision of movement.

“Yoga allows the child to put learning in place, especially at the level of motor components such as control of tone, inhibition and parameters such as rhythm, slowness, acceleration,” she assures BFMTV.com.

A useful practice to “focus”?

For Alice Guyon, yoga even has every interest in going to school. “In Western schooling, there is little room for the internalization of the body,” laments this CNRS researcher in neuroscience at the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, who has worked on the benefits of mind-body disciplines. (including yoga, tai chi and qi gong).

“These approaches, such as yoga or sophrology, make it possible to develop emotional intelligence, to observe one’s sensations, to calm one’s breathing and to listen to one’s body, without this contradicting school performance.

“It is a resource that can help the child in his schooling to resist disturbances, to concentrate, to gain resilience and self-confidence.”

A controversial topic

During the philosophy workshops that Alice Guyon leads from CE1 to CM2, before each session she offers children a “mindfulness practice”, a kind of short meditation to channel their energy and improve their concentration. In her training for teachers, Brigitte Anne Neveux evokes yoga as a time to refocus children or offer them a break between two school sequences.

“After sitting for 45 minutes you can get your body moving again, get up, stretch, massage yourself. In school you learn know-how. Yoga develops soft skills, it tames the mind. Here he has his place. in the class .”

But if this kind of meditative practice in class is obvious to some, others are worried about it. Jean-Michel Blanquer was made aware of the holding of “mindfulness meditation” workshops – a technique distinct from yoga – in certain schools, presented in the form of “relaxation workshops” or “breathing exercises” or “meditation”.

Associations and unions had stood up and assessed that they involved “significant risks” and “uncertain consequences (…) for children’s psychological development”.

On a scientific level, various studies have established the benefits of yoga in adults: reduction of depressive symptoms from two to three sessions per week, decrease in anxiety or strengthening the immune system in patients with breast cancer. However, no such evaluation has been carried out in children.

“It’s cosmetic”

That’s why pediatric neurologist Catherine Billard is more reserved on the subject. While she acknowledges that yoga is part of a set of “methods” that can “relax” children, she doesn’t go so far as to boast of benefits on motor skills, concentration, or handling emotions.

“Anything we can do to help children who have learning disabilities, who are anxious or agitated, is good to take,” notes this cognitive development specialist for BFMTV.com, who coordinated a learning disability screening experience.

“It can also help the teacher in the management of the class. But what is at stake is only in relation to well-being.”

“Everyone can more or less feel the benefits of yoga, but I can’t say that it has any real positive impact on children, especially in terms of learning,” explains Catherine Billard. For this neuropediatrician, “it’s all about cosmetics”.

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