Can Yoga Help Children with Anxiety?


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Can Yoga Help Children with Anxiety?


It can be heartbreaking to see your child suffer with anxiety. I know there have been many instances that I really didn’t know what to do to soothe my anxious child–and it made me feel pretty anxious myself! Yoga has always done wonders for my anxiety, but I’ve realized that simply telling my child to take a deep breath is hit or miss—especially when they’re already in that anxious headspace.

Does that mean that yoga doesn’t help kids with anxiety? Of course not. Yoga can be an amazing tool for helping your child cope with anxiety–no matter what the cause or how it manifests! 

How to use yoga to help children with anxiety.

First, let’s get the disclaimer out of the way.

I am a yoga teacher and mom, not a therapist. So, please take this post as friendly, generalized advice based on my own experience and opinions.

1-Know that it will take time.

If only a little coaching on deep breathing would instantly calm a child who is losing her shit over a dentist appointment…

Unfortunately, in my experience, the benefit comes more from practice and repetition. Using it as a last resort is better than not using it at all–but the goal should be to get your child so comfortable with the techniques that they do it without even thinking about it to calm themselves when they feel uneasy.

See also 5 Yoga Tips to Help Your Toddler Sleep

2-Think of a few different ways to describe deep breathing. 

As a yoga teacher, I often have to say the same thing lots of different ways so that it will land–even when I’m teaching adults.

And the same is true for anything you’re trying to teach your kids.

Some of my favorite deep breathing cues for kids are the simplest, and they paint a picture:

Breathe into your belly like you’re trying to blow up a balloon.

Breathe in like you’re smelling a flower and out like you’re blowing out a candle.

Imagine you have a sailboat on your tummy that bobs up and down as you breathe in and out.

If all else fails, use a prop. Pull out a nice bottle of lavender essential oils and have your child take a big whiff! They’ll breathe deeper and maybe the scent will calm them, too.

Or grab a bottle of bubbles and remind your child that to breathe out to blow the bubbles, they’ve got take a BIG deep breath in first. 

See also My Two-Year-Old Taught Me Pranayama

3-Create a physical outlet or yucky feelings.

Yoga poses are an obvious choice here. But it doesn’t have to be Downward Dogs–if your child loves to ride bicycles or chase the dog around in the backyard, that can be effective, too! 

Just get them moving and getting some nervous energy out of their bodies! 

Once your child has gotten their wiggles out, you might suggest a calming posture like Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose or Child’s Pose. 

I love to mention to children that when they press the spot between their eyebrows into the floor, it’s like pushing a Calm Button. 

4-Validate all of the feelings.

Sometimes just naming what’s going on for your child can make all the difference. Try to help them put words to what they’re feeling.

“It seems like maybe you’re feeling nervous about going to school today. Is that right?” 

“Everyone feels nervous sometimes. Do you want to hear what I do to make myself feel better when I’m nervous about trying something new?”

5-Check your own anxiety. 

Kids can feel anxiety even when you are calm as a cucumber. But it’s true that when you’re extra stressed by their big feelings, it seems like kids see that and it makes them feel even more anxious.

Not to mention, if they that you also sometimes need to stop, take a deep breath, and reset… they might follow your lead.

I want to make sure I close out this post by saying this… I know how terrible it can feel when you don’t know what to do to help your kid or kids. You are doing great–and the fact that you read this far means you obviously are an amazing, caring parent. Your child is so lucky to have you! 


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