Yoga is a great activity for kids. It’s fun, active, mindful, and easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
However, as with anything else, there are certain types of yoga that are unsafe for children.
The main reason that certain types of yoga are unsafe for children is that children are not fully developed. So we have to be careful of the level and types of activity they practice.
For example, take Rock n’ Roll pose.
Rock n’ Roll pose- sitting on your bottom, hug your knees to your chest, and roll backward onto your back, rolling back and forth along the spine.
I have been told before that this pose is unsafe for children. I can certainly see their point. Rocking and rolling around on your back puts pressure on your spine. However, Rock n’ Roll is a fluid motion, not static, so the pressure on the spine is evenly distributed, making the pose safe. And fun! Because who doesn’t love rocking and rolling around?
Actually, Rock n’ Roll is a great pose to help keep the spine straight. Sometimes, when practicing, the base of your spine at your lower back becomes arched, which can make a pose such as lying in Savasana uncomfortable. Rock n’ Roll helps to straighten the spine out so that Savasana becomes the comfortable, relaxing pose it is meant to be.
If you’re going to make this argument about Rock n Roll for the spine, it can be made for Triangle and the hamstrings, Camel and the lower back, Crow and the triceps…
If you’re going to make the argument that Rock n’ Roll is bad for children because they are not fully developed, you could argue that all yoga poses are bad for children because there is no part of their body that is fully developed.
But is this the case? No, it isn’t.
Because yoga is good for children, just as it is good for adults.
That said, Rock n’ Roll pose is a transition pose for poses such as Standing Shoulder and Plough (among others). Poses such as Standing Shoulder and Plough are fine for children to practice- as long as they do it fluidly. But, if these poses are held static, this can compress the pituitary gland, which is responsible for the hormones needed for healthy growth.
This is why children’s yoga is NOT THE SAME as yoga for adults. An adult, fully developed body, can safely remain in static poses- a child’s body cannot.Children’s yoga is fluid- moving around to songs, stories, games, and other activities. Constantly moving, fluid motions, nothing tense, nothing static. Everything free flow and fun- just as children are. Click To Tweet
And this is why there are certain types of yoga that are unsafe for children.
Two in particular – hot yoga and yin yoga.
As an adult, I LOVE hot yoga! The heat keeps you warm (I love the heat), helps to create more flexibility, and helps you to be more mindful- particularly in terms of proper breathing since breathing correctly becomes even more important in hot yoga in order to keep your blood pressure level.
But hot yoga is not an okay yoga for children to practice. Why? A simple answer is: the heat. But let’s break it down further.
Muscles and Tendons
As I just mentioned, the heat in a hot yoga studio allows for more flexibility in the ligaments. Great for adults, unsafe for children. A child’s body is still growing and developing, including bones and the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that cover those bones.
Actually, a child’s bones grow faster than their muscles, tendons, and ligaments which means that they are already being stretched daily, until a child develops fully. So, when you put a child with already stretched muscles, tendons, and ligaments in a hot yoga studio, they become even more stretched – creating a lot of hyper-flexibility.
Children are naturally more flexible than adults. A lot of children are naturally hyper-flexible. Have you ever seen a child bend their fingers all the way back until their finger tips touch the back of their hand? Can you, as an adult, do that? Likely not.
While hyper-flexibility might be “cool” [Hey! Look at me being super flexible in this pose!], it’s dangerous. Hyper-flexibility (usually known as hyper-mobility), creates laxity in the ligaments, which in turn creates an unstable body joint. For example, if you find you are hyper-flexible in your hip, but you notice a “clicking” sound or can “pop” your hip out of the socket, this means that there is laxity in your ligaments, which can lead to an unstable hip joint, which can lead to problems with the hip, lower back, and sciatic nerve.
Allowing a child to practice in a hot yoga studio can also lead to torn l muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Because they are already being stretched due to natural developmental cycles, the heat from a hot yoga studio can stretch them beyond their capacity, causing rips and tears. And sometimes the only way to treat these rips and tears is with surgery. No fun for anyone- much less a child.
Sweating & Overheating
A child’s body is still developing. We’ve been over that. You know that. But here is something you may not know: children do not have a fully developed thermoregulation system. [Thermoregulation=a body’s ability to keep it’s temperature within certain boundaries]. Have you ever seen an infant sweat? A toddler? Not often. Because they physically, biologically cannot.
As adults, we know that we are overheating when we begin to feel warm all over and sweat beads form on our foreheads. Sweating is our body’s way of cooling down and regulating our temperature. But children do not sweat as adults do and, as a result, often cannot accurately judge when they are getting too hot or physically fatigued. In a hot yoga studio, this means that a child will likely have no idea if they become overheated and exhausted, leading to high blood pressure, instability, reduced oxygen intake, extreme fatigue, and dehydration, among other problems.
Breathing is an important component of yoga, for everyone. In a hot yoga studio, breathing becomes even more important as it is essential to use your breath to help regulate your body temperature and blood pressure.
For children, whose respiratory system does not fully develop until the age of 12 years, coordinating their breathing with the yoga poses can be difficult. Thus, their breathing may not be as in tune with the postures as we would like. In a hot studio, this means that (a) the child’s blood pressure is rising from a combination of heat and improper breathing, which can cause feelings of pressure, trouble breathing, earaches, or even temporary hearing loss, among other issues, and (b) there is not enough oxygen getting to the bones as there should be, leading to problems with coordination, balance, and stability.
Dehydration is another issue for children, related to breathing. Children have smaller airways than adults and, for very young children (under the age of 5 years), they naturally breathe shallowly and quickly while their respiratory system is still developing. This means that young children tire more easily and quickly than older children and adults. This also means that, because of the shallow and quick breathing, young children are more likely to become dehydrated. The heat in a hot yoga studio will only exacerbate this dehydration and, when children are dehydrated, their blood is thicker, making it more difficult for oxygen to travel throughout the body creating problems with balance and stability, as well as feelings of pressure, usually in the ears, eyes, face, and/or head.
Yin yoga is the Yang to Hatha yoga, and my personal favourite type of yoga. But I would never allow my kids to practice it or recommend that any other child do either.
For those of you who have never attended a yin yoga class, it is very relaxing and restorative. All postures are done on the floor (back, belly, or seated), and are held between 3-5 minutes EACH!
HELLOOOO STATIC POSTURES!
Static postures are not safe for children. Why? Because static postures stretch the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the body, increasing flexibility. And, as we just covered, this is dangerous for children who are continuously developing.
Remember, a child’s bones are growing faster than their muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which means these are already being stretched. Holding postures for extended periods of time can cause intense hyper-flexibility and even tear or break the tendons and ligaments. This can even happen without them noticing. Hyper-flexibility can actually diminish the ability to recognize a tear in ligaments- if someone is flexible in a pose, they are likely to attribute that to practicing and becoming more flexible. But it is also possible that the ligament has been torn and you don’t know about it.
This happens as adults. So it can definitely happen to children. And children are WAY less likely to be able to tell you what is going on- torn ligaments aren’t something children are typically knowledgeable about.
Okay, this is a pretty terrifying blog post. But never fear.
Yoga is a very safe activity for everyone, including children. There are no more risks (I would actually argue that there are less risks) for a child practicing yoga than there are for a child doing gymnastics or playing football.
It is important to remember the differences between yoga for adults and yoga for children. Many people assume they are the same. While the two include the same poses, the manner in which they are taught is completely different.
We must be mindful and respectful of a child’s growing, developing, ever-changing body. So that we can teach safely and effectively.
Children’s yoga is fluid- moving around to songs, stories, games, and other activities. Constantly moving, fluid motions, nothing tense, nothing static. Everything free flow and fun- just as children are.