Yoga in Pediatrics

Currently, this article is under review and might not be up-to-date. Check back soon to see the finished work! (01/09/2024)

Original Editor Niyati Jhaveri Shah

Major ContributorsNiyati Jhaveri Shah, Kinenga Bamurange Liliane and kim jackson

Description

Yoga Children.png

Yoga is the integration of mind, body, and spirit.(1). There are numerous contemporary schools or styles of yoga (e.g., Iyengar, Viniyoga, Sivananda, etc.), each with its unique focus on postures and physical exercises (asanas), breathing practices (pranayama), deep relaxation, and meditation that foster awareness.(2) and ultimately enhance attention and concentration in children. Comprehensive yoga practice can provide structural, physiological, psycho-emotional, and spiritual benefits. Yoga is gaining popularity worldwide, and several research studies and systematic reviews with scientific evidence of its therapeutic potential and health promotion in children are being published.(3)

Varieties of Yoga Methods

  1. Physical Poses or Asanas

The meaning of Asana in Sanskrit is «seat» or «to be». The aim of yoga asanas is to stay in a posture with full concentration for heightened mind focus. Asanas should be performed gently and effortlessly to increase awareness and connect with oneself. (4)

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2. Breathing or Pranayama

Pranayama involves controlling breath and mind. When breathing is stretched and controlled, a cessation of brain activity occurs. These are a set of fundamental breathing techniques known to calm the mind and therapeutically used for excessive mental arousal.(4) They stimulate lung and cognitive capacity, reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and other psychosomatic tendencies, and promote physical well-being and self-awareness. (6)

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3. Deep Relaxation or Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra aims to train the unconscious to consistently achieve the desired state through mental repetition. Cognitive reorganization processes are triggered in studies that utilized similar strategies during meditation. (8)Yoga Nidra is a systematic sequence of breathing and body awareness techniques that can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and increase the amount of slow alpha waves in the brain.(9)

4. Meditation

In recent years, there has been a growing body of research on meditation-based interventions. A collection of self-control exercises aimed at maintaining awareness and attention is called meditation. (10)These therapies, including yoga and mindfulness, are described as interventions that work to strengthen awareness, presence, and a more cohesive sense of self through attention development and emotion regulation.(11)

Advantages

According to pediatric literature, mindfulness and yoga enhance memory in schoolchildren, cognitive function in children with intellectual disabilities, planning abilities and executive functions, as well as attention, behavior, and emotional control in healthy children. Yoga has been found to enhance motor skills such as balanceandphysical strengthalong with overall well-being and quality of life for various groups of children.

Physical and Physiological Effects:

  • Increased muscle strength, posture, and flexibility.(12)
  • Enhanced body’s immune response.(13)
  • Boosted energy levels
  • Heightened sensory awareness
  • Improved breathing pattern(14)

Social, Emotional, and Cognitive Effects:

  • Enhances attention span and concentration.(15)
  • Improves memory(16)
  • Reduces stress and anxiety.(17)
  • Enhances relationships and social awareness.(12)
  • Induces relaxation(18)
  • Boosts self-confidence(12)
  • Improves emotional regulation(19)

Yoga and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological developmental disorder with an incidence of around 5% in children.(20). The disorder is typically associated with cognitive impairments, executive deficits, oppositional defiant disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Learning difficulties are common in children with ADHD.(21) It has been shown that yoga and meditation improve executive function, inhibitory control, hyperactivity, impulsivity, attention, mood management, anxiety, insecurity, and stress.(17)

Yoga and Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is the most common physical disability in childhood, caused by a non-progressive brain injury in fetal or infant brains, resulting in motor, postural, cognitive, and psychological issues.(22). One study indicated that specific yoga asanas in six children aged 7 to 11 with cerebral palsy had a substantial effect on hip and knee joint flexibility.(23). Another experimental study found that 3 months of yoga practice improved motor skills like reaction time, eye-hand coordination, static balance, and agility.(24)along with considerable gains in postural control and functional capacity. (25)

Yoga and Pediatric Oncology

Children and adolescents undergoing cancer treatment face a wide array of physical and mental challenges. Pediatric oncology patients include fatigue, pain, anxiety, sleep disturbances, restlessness, depression, nausea, vomiting, and hair loss.(26) This can be extremely taxing for the body and mind of those affected, potentially resulting in a significant decrease in quality of life. According to a 2021 review, yoga and mindfulness may help improve quality of life, reduce fatigue, increase activity levels and physical fitness, enhance sleep quality, stimulate appetite, and reduce anxiety in various stages of the disease and its treatment.(27)

Yoga and Rehabilitation

To improve patients’ functional outcomes after various injuries, it has been demonstrated that yoga used alongside standard or routine physiotherapy reduces pain, stiffness, and enhances motor function. According to recent studies, yoga practice has also been linked to improved motor imagery performance.(28)

Furthermore, the use of cognitive techniques and mindfulness training, as opposed to sensory aspects of pain, may enhance pain perception.(29)

Yoga can help achieve the following physiotherapy goals in children:

  • Enhanced strength, flexibility, circulation, and oxygenation.
  • Improved motor coordination, motor planning, performance, and reaction speed.
  • Enhanced grip
  • Improved cardiopulmonary parameters.
  • Increased strength of inspiratory and expiratory muscles.
  • Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Greater sense of relaxation and calmness.
  • Boosted self-esteem
  • Heightened attention and concentration.
  • Better sleep
  • Improved behavior, focus, and academic performance.
  • Enhanced social and emotional intelligence.
  • Greater sense of well-being and quality of life.

References

  1. Bhavanani YMD (2011). The history of yoga from ancient times to modern times. (pp. 1-21). ICE. www.icyer.com
  2. Saud A, Abbasi M, Merris H, Parth P, Jones XM, Aggarwal R, Gupta L. Harnessing the Benefits of Yoga for Myositis, Muscular Dystrophies, and Other Musculoskeletal Disorders. Clinical Rheumatology. 2022 November;41(11):3285-97.
  3. Butzer B, Day D, Potts A, Ryan

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