Is yoga the best choice for a tween-ager?
Your tween daughter is begging to take a weekly yoga class with her friends. Should you steer her toward a sport instead?

Parent advice

(from our panel of staff contributors)

Once you've checked it out, I'd say let her go for it. As the parent of a girl this age, I think they can benefit from learning anything that increases their focus and ability to calm themselves, which I've found to be one of the great, lasting benefits of yoga. And while team sports are great, I think it's important to promote physical activities that kids can still be doing at age 80. Like yoga.

Cindy Dampier

I would think the benefits of yoga would outweigh those of most other activities. Even if your daughter is interested only because her friends are and she's just following the pack, something might click, and she'll become involved in a body/mind practice that she can benefit from long after she'll have lost the ability to kick a soccer ball.

Bill Hageman

Teaching children about the mind/body connection, breathing and stretching can have lifelong benefits. Plus there's a fitness component, and it's a great stress reliever. Also, the noncompetitive nature of it can improve self-esteem in kids more than a team sport. And what tween couldn't use a bit of self-esteem?

Seka Palikuca

Expert advice

Adolescence is actually a prime time for yoga, says Paula Walker, yoga instructor at Miami-based Green Monkey yoga studios, which partners with schools to offer children's yoga classes.

"Self-confidence, self-esteem and self-respect are the three most important things for preteen girls to develop as their bodies are changing," Walker says. "Yoga teaches them to become very in touch with their bodies from the inside out."

The breathing techniques, spiritual teachings and mindfulness meditations that accompany the stretches and other physically taxing parts of yoga classes can give tweens the tools they need to navigate any number of stressful situations.

"It teaches you to calm down your nervous system," Walker says. "You learn to calm down your anxiety and panic modes so when you're 13 and you're facing a big test or pressure from the outside world, you can control your breathing and think more clearly."

A few other benefits for tweens, Walker says:

Nutrition awareness: "Yoga becomes a lifestyle that permeates the rest of your life. So when you leave yoga, you're not going to want to go eat at McDonald's. You start to choose all kinds of healthier ways to live."

Connectedness: "It builds a sense of belonging and community with the other people in your class. And preteens can take adult classes, so it's something that moms and daughters and sisters can all do together."

Crossover: "Yoga makes you more flexible and strengthens your core. So if you do ballet or gymnastics, it's a great add-on. If you swim, if you do any other sport, it's going to elevate your skill set."

Posture: "It makes you sit up straighter and roll your shoulder blades back and just be more mindful of your posture." Just in time for prom photos.

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