Yoga and Mental health

In recent months, there has been a lot of focus in the media about mental health issues in young people in the UK. Celebrities, the Royals, all trying to raise awareness and more funding for earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Children and young people the most affected

The data is scary. According to Mintel, in a paper released in November 2017 “Managing a healthy lifestyle” the population affected the most by stress and anxiety is the 16-24-year-old (25% feel anxious or stressed every day).

Growing up can be tough for some children and for most, going through the teenage years can be a difficult time of self-discovery, without all the added pressure nowadays brought by the online world. Tom Madders, who leads the youth mental health charity Young Minds campaigns said: “The factors behind mental health problems can be complex and multiple, but we know that children today face a wide range of pressures including school stress, bullying and pressures around body image and growing up in an online world.”

Today, studies show that 75% of mental illnesses start before a child reaches 18, while 50% of mental health problems in adult life took root before the age of 15.

Diagnosis and treatment

Children with depression and anxiety are often not being diagnosed or given help, leading to an alarming 75% of young people with a mental health problem currently not receiving treatment.

Data published by the health statistics body (Information Services Division) in Scotland recently revealed that the number of children aged 10-14yrs prescribed antidepressants has risen 143% in 10 years and even more worryingly, the number of children as young as 5-9 years old has risen by 27% over the same time period. Overall, the number of prescriptions in teenagers and children aged 19 and under has increased by 90% since 2009.

This type of treatment can be seen in most cases as being a plaster over the issue without really trying to focus on the factors contributing to these symptoms.

Focus on prevention

As for everything, prevention is better than cure. And this statement is even more powerful when you think of our children and their future. The prevention we do today will prevent having to cure the issues of tomorrow.

Yoga has been shown to relieve stress, anxiety, depression and even low self-esteem in adults, and so the same can be achieved with children. What’s more, practicing yoga will provide some time away from all the technologies absorbing them and from social media, too often the very root of the mental health issues our kids suffer from today!

Kids yoga is fun, engaging, playful, and relaxing.

Through non-competitive games, incorporating postures, introducing mindfulness and meditation, children can really experience the benefits of yoga.

  • Promoting a healthy body
    By stretching and strengthening, improving coordination and brain function. It is a great complementary activity alongside any sports!
  • Creating a positive body awareness and increasing self-confidence
    Mastering a new pose or being able to hold balance longer fosters confidence and a great sense of achievement.
  • Improving balance, coordination and focus
    Practicing and holding poses increases focus, hand-eye coordination and can challenge the brain
  • Reducing stress and anxiety
    Through breathing techniques and mindful movement, children can let go of other thoughts and simply focus on the present.
  • Balancing the body “fight, flight or freeze” response
    When children feel negative emotions or are scared, the amygdala part of the brain is triggered, and their body responds by diverting blood from the digestive organs to the skeletal muscles. This results in disrupted digestion, increased heart rate, and shallower breathing. Controlled and deep breathing stimulates the other parts of the brain helping to counteract this activity and restore calm and balance in the body.
  • Expanding creativity
    During class, the children are engaged and encouraged to actively participate and lead. No plan is set in stone.
  • Encouraging cooperation and compassion
    Yoga is non-competitive and emphasis is put on a community feel.
  • Learning techniques and providing tools to manage emotions
    To help them through stressful times at school, nurture a sense of inner peace, enhance self-confidence and facilitate relationships with others.

So is yoga the answer?

Kids and teens yoga is clearly gaining momentum, and has started to be introduced in schools around the country as its benefits are getting praised and recognised.

Can it be the prevention method for the next generation’s mental health issues? Until we have real insight and studies to show that yoga has made an impact, we will not know for sure. Does it make a difference? Absolutely!

Yoga is a practice which reconciles mind and body, provides some relief to stress, anxieties and helps regulate hormones and thus body functions. At a time when children and teenagers are overstimulated and under constant pressure, is yoga the answer? It’s definitely one of them.

About the Author

Author: Virginie Ferguson

Teaching kids and family yoga in Alexandria near Loch Lomond, Scotland.

Tel: 07852611302