7 Things You Didn't Know About Aerial Yoga for Kids
Many families who end up at the Play to Grow Studio are looking to try something new and have a little fun. Others are looking to encourage balance and practice tools to cope with anxiety. Some have concerns about their child's physical skills and are in search of a way to build strength and coordination, and I can vouch that our classes and camps deliver ALL of these and a bag of chips!
Our classes are certainly intended as a fun, enrichment experience and I think the smiles and giggles certainly speak for themselves. But wrapped up in our silly games, upside down poses, and one of a kind challenges is a ton of science about how the brain and body work. Let's dive in...
Aerial Yoga Helps Develop Better Balance
You've likely heard in recent years a bit more about our "other" senses. Yes, in addition to touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight, we have some other very important senses in our body. Our vestibular sense, associated with structures in our inner ear, allows us to sense movement in all directions. It is stimulated by moving forward and back, side to side, and spinning in a circle, and is a critical component of balance.
Another sense that helps us to balance is proprioception. There are sensory receptors in our joints and muscles that tell our brain where our body is in space. So if I told you to close your eyes and I moved your left arm up over your head, you could easily mirror that position with your right arm without needing to look.
As we practice aerial yoga their are infinite opportunities for stimulating these two sensory systems. We hang upside down, spin in circles, and feel pressure from the hammock and through weight bearing on the floor. Each movement
Aerial Yoga Helps Promote Healthy Brain Organization and Regulation
Those same senses that help us to have body awareness and balance also have a profound link to our parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of our brain that regulates us and promotes calm. Now, depending on the child and the situation, different poses and activities may be calming or stimulating. This is where I pull in my experience as a physical therapist and my training in the sensory system to help children find the activities and poses that are soothing to their specific nervous system.
Aerial Yoga Builds Strength
It won't take you more than a couple of minutes in one of our hammocks to discover that it requires some serious muscle power! Our hands need to firmly grasp the silks, sometimes supporting the weight of our entire body. Our core muscles engage throughout to maintain our posture in the hammocks and pull us up from inversions. Our extensors (the muscles controlling our upright posture) - which are SO neglected in our modern, sit-in-a-chair lifestyle - are awakened in this whole-body practice.
Aerial Yoga Strengthens Motor Planning
You might be asking, "What the heck is motor planning?!" Well, it's a skill we have that allows us to sequence out all the movement steps needed to complete an action. It's something we do completely without realizing it. Things like brushing our teeth or riding a bike require numerous different steps, all of which are executed efficiently as part of our daily routine.
Some children have a hard time with learning new movement skills. They may take a long time or appear clumsy. We are able to practice the thought process and execution of movement tasks each and every time we perform learned and novel poses in the aerial yoga hammocks, every time we participate in our famous "yoga jungle" obstacle course, and even when we are tasked with helping the instructor clean up all the equipment after class.
Aerial Yoga Boosts Confidence
One of my favorite things about teaching aerial yoga to kids is watching their confidence soar as they master poses that once felt impossible. It is a very tangible lesson in growth mindset when children are able to see their skills develop from one class to the next.
The biggest joy is when the children are able to share their growth with parents during our end of session demonstration. They are SO eager to show off what they can do. And, for children this is sweetened by the fact that their parents CAN'T do it! Each and every day kids are put in situations with adults who know more and can do it better than they can. But in our studio the KIDS are the experts. Given this opportunity their confidence goes through the darn roof!
Aerial Yoga Improves Focus & Attention
If you've spent any time around a 6-year-old boy, you know they like to move a bit. (I have one of these at home that I observe regularly!) There has been much discussion in recent years about how children regulate their body through movement, and more and more classrooms are integrating flexible seating (such as wobble stools and yoga balls) , sensory-motor pathways, brain breaks, and fidget tools to help children who NEED to move in order to attend to what they are learning.
When I first started offering classes, I heard the following statement a LOT:
"My child moves too much to focus on a yoga class!"
While your child may appear to be randomly moving about, not paying attention, they are often taking in a ton more information that you are aware of. During our classes children move between the floor, their hammock, and our calming corner. Their bodies NEED this movement, but they always come back and perform the pose and ask questions that tell me they were in tune with me the entire time.
Aerial Yoga Builds Mindfulness Skills
A unique component of our classes at Play to Grow is the integration of developmentally appropriate mindfulness lessons for kids. Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years and many more parents and classroom teachers are wondering how to teach this skill to children.
"Am I supposed to sit my child down on a pillow and make them be silent for 5 minutes? That'll never work!"
You're right, most kids are not going to be able to jump right in to a seated meditation, and honestly that's a big ask for many adults in today's society! The good news is that mindfulness for children can be taught in a very accessible way. This practice is all about bringing our awareness to the present moment. We can teach this to kids through focusing on our breath with fun tools, by engaging the senses in a mindful senses exercise, and through challenge poses in our hammocks. Believe me, when a child is hanging upside down and trying to achieve a new pose they are firmly rooted in the present moment!
I hope that this post taught you a bit more about how aerial yoga can help children's minds and bodies. Curious about how we can help your child? Our programs serve kids with a variety of skills and needs. Set up a call with me to chat about the benefits of aerial yoga for your family!