When kids regularly practice yoga, they experience benefits ranging from stress reduction to heightened self-esteem. Here, we break down how yoga can improve physical, mental, and emotional health in children and look at the exciting future of kids and teens yoga.

Southampton Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) has secured a permanent contract for the integration of yoga therapy into its services which is an incredible step in making kids and teens yoga accessible. This momentous achievement brings a new era in holistic mental health care provision, underscoring the profound impact of complementary and alternative approaches in supporting individuals on their journey towards healing and wholeness.

Dr Jo Barker, Consultant Psychiatrist and student and patron of the Teen Yoga Foundation has spearheaded this approach and has spoken widely of its impact in national conferences. Yoga Therapist, Bernadette Harris, has been working for CAMHS for a year and her work has been highly valued by young people, their families and professionals alike.

Children and YP have reported feeling more relaxed, calm and focussed after sessions. They feel it has helped them at school and helped them to recognise where they have tension and what to do to help it go. They have been better able to manage their emotions

(direct quotes below from CYP)

• I am more able to relax and use breathing exercises in my every day.

• I feel calm for the rest of the day after my session.

• I feel more relaxed.

• I feel more focused.

• I notice where I have tension and know what to do to help it go.

• I have more space in my body.

• I can speak out more confidently.

• It helps me at school.

• I feel proud of myself.

• I have more energy, but I am also calmer.

• I am sleeping better than I was.

• My son has told me what he is feeling and where, he has never done this before

• My daughter was able to remove herself from an overwhelming situation and manage her emotions.

• I have noticed my child take themselves away from situations to calm down, before coming to yoga they would hit out and shout, they are more in control of this now

• School have also noticed a big change in my child, she approaches other pupils when they are upset and asks them where they are feeling it in their body before helping them with a breathing practice.

Bernadette says “I feel in a privileged position to work in Southampton CAMHS, and I am so excited that I can take the yoga pathway forward with a permanent contract. It is a busy role with a constant flow of referrals which continue to increase, evidencing the recognition of the benefits of this therapeutic intervention. Outcomes gathered from the children I have worked with so far, show the impact that yoga therapy is having in supporting our children and young people to achieve greater body awareness and to develop healthy coping and self-regulation skills. They are developing more effective responses to stress, both emotionally and physically, which is helping them feel more relaxed, grounded, and focused.”

Children’s mental health services are overwhelmed with a huge increase in referrals, especially since the pandemic, and the demand far outstrips the availability. Young people present with complex interplays of physical, emotional, and psychological factors which lead to formidable challenges for both individuals and healthcare professionals alike. Traditional treatment modalities often fall short in addressing the multifaceted nature of these disorders, emphasising symptom management rather than addressing underlying root causes. However, the integration of yoga therapy within CAMHS heralds a paradigm shift, offering a holistic framework that honours the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit.

At the heart of yoga therapy lies a rich tapestry of ancient wisdom and modern science, woven together to create a transformative healing modality. Through a diverse array of practices encompassing physical postures (asanas), conscious breathing techniques (pranayama), mindfulness meditation, and deep relaxation, yoga therapy empowers individuals to embark on a profound journey of self-discovery and self-transformation. For those grappling with complex difficulties such as eating disorders, these practices provide invaluable tools for cultivating self-awareness, enhancing body acceptance, and nurturing a compassionate relationship with oneself.

Central to the ethos of yoga therapy is the concept of "svadhyaya" or self-study, encouraging individuals to explore their inner landscape with curiosity and compassion. Through the practice of mindfulness and introspection, individuals develop a deeper understanding of the underlying thoughts, emotions, and beliefs that contribute to their struggles with food and body image. This process of self-inquiry fosters a sense of agency and empowerment, enabling individuals to cultivate healthier coping mechanisms and make informed choices aligned with their truest selves.

The decision by Southampton CAMHS to embrace yoga therapy as a core component of its treatment approach reflects a progressive shift towards integrative mental health care. By acknowledging the complementary nature of yoga therapy alongside conventional therapeutic modalities, CAMHS demonstrates a commitment to holistic well-being and patient-centred care. This permanent contract not only affirms the efficacy of yoga therapy but also sets a precedent for its wider adoption within mainstream mental health services. The research that is currently being carried out at the University of Southampton will hopefully give us a clearer picture of exactly how yoga is helping and how best to maximise its impact.

As yoga teachers and advocates, we stand at the forefront of this transformative movement, bridging the gap between ancient wisdom and modern science. Our role extends beyond the studio walls, as we collaborate with mental health professionals to co-create healing spaces that honour the inherent wholeness of every individual. Through workshops, training programs, and community outreach initiatives, we can empower individuals to embrace yoga as a potent tool for mental and emotional well-being.

In celebrating the integration of yoga therapy into CAMHS, we honour the resilience and courage of those navigating the challenging terrain of mental disorders. May this partnership serve as a beacon of hope for all those seeking solace and support on their journey towards wholeness. Together, let us continue to champion the transformative power of yoga therapy, forging a path towards a more compassionate and integrated approach to mental health care.

Benefits of Yoga for Children's Mental Health:

- Enhancing Self-Regulation: By practicing breath awareness and mindfulness techniques, children develop the ability to regulate their emotions and respond calmly to challenges.

- Improving Focus and Academic Performance: Yoga poses and mindful breathing exercises boost children's concentration, leading to better cognitive skills and academic performance.

- Alleviating Anxiety: Yoga promotes relaxation and stress reduction, helping children manage anxiety and cultivate inner peace.

- Building Self-Confidence: Mastering new yoga poses fosters a sense of accomplishment and self-assurance, empowering children to face difficulties with resilience.

- Stress Management: Yoga equips children with effective coping strategies to handle stress and navigate life's challenges with poise.

- Establishing Mind-Body Connection: Through mindful movement and breath awareness, children develop a deeper understanding and acceptance of their bodies, enhancing self-awareness.

- Promoting Joyful Movement: Yoga encourages playful exploration of movement, fostering a positive attitude towards exercise and physical activity.

Teen Yoga Training

At Yogacampus we offer in-person and online Teen Yoga Training with Charlotta Martinus.

Charlotta Martinus is an award-winning visionary and the world leader in the field of yoga for young people. She was awarded the Master of Yoga title, the only woman in Europe, in 2019 by the International Yoga Alliance, after her best-selling book TeenYoga for Yoga Therapists was published in 2018. With over 35 years’ experience in working with young people as a therapist and teacher, Charlotta fuses her lived experience of healthcare, social work and education with her India-based yoga therapy knowledge. With a clinical license to work with vulnerable young people, she weaves various pedagogical frameworks, such as Steiner, Montessori and the Scandinavian model together with the specific psychotherapeutic approach necessary to effect change among young people.

She has created many bespoke frameworks that have been carefully researched, which forms the evidence base of her courses. In 2015, she was invited to craft an innovation programme for Sport England who funded a roll-out of the programme to young people who would not otherwise be exposed to yoga. In 2017, the University of Westminster, invited her to create a programme for a Muslim dominant school in North London, for their PSHE curriculum, which was then evaluated as a Doctorate in Health Psychology. In 2018, she was invited and funded by the European Union Erasmus programme to create a programme for 750 disadvantaged young people across 5 countries. The outcomes of this programme were evaluated in a carefully designed research programme which were published in various Psychology Literature. In 2020 London Youth, funded by the Tampon Tax Fund, reached out about a programme design for young BAME 10-13 year old girls, to empower them to become Mental Health Ambassadors. All of these programmes showed in quantative and qualitative research that yoga was an effective tool in decreasing anxiety and increasing wellbeing in all areas of life.

Next Teen Yoga face-to-face training 3-7th April FIND OUT MORE

Next Teen online training: 13th September FIND OUT MORE