The many health benefits of yoga are well known. But it’s not just a good exercise for adults: It is now being practiced by young children to help with focus, flexibility and to help them relax. According to an article recently published in the Wall Street Journal, thousands of schools across the country are adding yoga programs to teach children to do the exercises. Principal Adriana Chavarin of Paul Ecke Central Elementary School in Southern California says she has seen how calm and centered students are after practicing the techniques. A 2003 study by California State University found that yoga improved students’ behavior, physical health and academic performance, as well as attitudes toward themselves. Research shows the benefits of yoga are particularly strong among children with special needs. And the psychiatric unit at the Children’s Hospital of Colorado uses yoga with children ages four to 20 who suffer from issues such as mood disorders, eating disorders or autism says Michelle Fury, the hospital’s therapist.

Some doctors agree that yoga can be beneficial for kids, but say children can get the same benefits from other common exercises, such as ballet or weight lifting, by focusing on breathing while working out and relaxing afterward.

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