What is thousands of years old, but more popular today than ever? Yoga.

Yoga is one of the oldest forms of physical activity, and it can be a bit mysterious to those who have never practiced before. Yoga is a type of exercise that combines breath, physical postures or poses, and mindfulness to help strengthen and calm the body and mind. Practicing yoga builds strength, flexibility, and confidence. Also, the focus on breathing promotes relaxation and quiets the mind.

Children's yoga programs are increasing in popularity. If you are picturing children bending and twisting themselves into happy knots, think again. The 4-H style of yoga is different from the style of yoga practiced by adults. This program helps children improve their mental and physical fitness using yoga poses and deep breathing techniques.

Children's yoga programs tend to be fast paced, imaginative and have an extra element of fun. If you have ever practiced yoga in an adult group, you most likely held each pose for a length of time while you stretched and breathed your way into a quiet, relaxed mental and physical state. You probably didn't make animal noises or create yoga sequences to match an imaginative story. Yes, yoga is calming for kids, but it's also a fun, noncompetitive way to be physically active.

Healthy living is a core component of the 4-H youth development program. 4-H Yoga for Kids supports the goal of equipping youth and families to achieve optimal physical, social and emotional well-being. The program was developed by faculty at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. It focuses on healthy living for youth, including much needed physical activity. However, program developers say they created 4-H Yoga for Kids to help kids better manage their emotions, improve behavior, and perform better academically.

The program is more than improving physical fitness; research suggests that yoga helps students improve concentration, manage stress and improve behavior, and perform better academically. There are many benefits to practicing yoga, whether you do it once a week or every day. Research on the benefits of yoga for kids suggests improved outcomes, such as increased self-confidence and improved communication with peers, with practice as little as 45 minutes once a week over 12 weeks.

4-H Yoga for Kids is for people of all ages, the flexible and inflexible, and our focus is on helping kids achieve optimal physical, social, and emotional health. If you are interested in trying out a session of Yoga for Kids, check out the Cherokee County OSU Extension Facebook. I will go live next Monday afternoon at 1 p.m. If you would like a sheet of the yoga poses, check out our drop box for a copy.

Heather Winn is a family and consumer sciences educator for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service in Cherokee County.

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