I recently sat down with Sheila Ewers of Natural Awakenings Atlanta to discuss Yoga for the Youngest Generation and offer a few practices to help ease the transition back to school. Here’s an excerpt. Click for more. (b&w photo by Lynda Nicolay)

What specific benefits does yoga offer kids?

Teaching children yoga has gained popularity over the last few years, and for good reason. Extensive research studies [bit.ly/grounded-kids-research] prove that children who practice yoga have a higher overall sense of well-being and perform better in school. They improve academically and exhibit fewer problems with behavior and absenteeism.

Yoga teaches us how to express, balance, and regulate our emotions. It asks us to know what lies beneath the surface of reactivity and division in order to connect to our true nature, which is at ease and self-assured. Young people learn to recognize when they’re out of alignment with their best pose or their best self, and they discover skills to realign in order to feel better in their body and mind. The practice builds resilience, strength, flexibility and focus while reducing anxiety, depression, negative self-talk and the effects of chronic stress and trauma.

Beyond the research studies, we frequently hear everyday success stories. Parents report that brothers and sisters are no longer escalating disagreements but rather hearing each other out and working together to solve issues with empathy and respect. We receive occasional thank you texts from parents when homework and bedtime go smoothly and the whole family sleeps peacefully. And physical therapists and occupational therapists contact us because they notice significant increases in core strength, coordination and determination in patients who are attending yoga classes—and they want to spread the word. Over the years, teens have messaged us on social media, saying that what they learned in class has helped them deal with real-life issues like breakups, friendships, family struggles, depression and general stress. Student athletes use yoga to prepare both physically and mentally for their sports. And students with special needs discover ways to honor both their abilities and their vulnerabilities.

Keep reading & Check out the practices