As I was searching for information on the use of mindfulness exercises, I came across this survey conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a research agency of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The results of the survey revealed that practitioners of mind and body practices including yoga are steadily on the rise in America. The survey data was gathered in 2012 and were compared with versions of the survey fielded in 2002 and 2007. The survey results were released in 2015. Among the interesting findings of the survey are the following:
- There was a significant increase in the use of yoga since 2002, across all age, racial, and ethnic groups.
- There were approximately 400,000 more children aged 4 to 17 who used yoga in 2012 than in 2007
- At the time of the survey in 2012, nearly 927,000 children practiced meditation.
The survey suggests that the increasing number of mind and body practitioners may be partly due to a growing body of research and literature, including this one, showing yoga and similar practices can help reduce stress and lower levels of anxiety. This suggestion prompted me to look for other research that might show similar beneficial effects on children diagnosed with selective mutism or any anxiety disorder, who practice yoga. This search, in turn, led me to this interesting article published in the Anxiety-Free Child Program website. The article provides an extensive introduction to yoga, what it is and is not, and how it works. It also presents more than a few pieces of evidence that yoga is effective in reducing anxiety levels. It also gives practical advice on how to help an anxious child practice yoga. It even offers a few example yoga poses an anxious child can try with his parent, using cartoon illustrations from the book Bony Yoga. The full article can be viewed here.
Yoga should be considered as a viable alternative to reducing anxiety levels also for practical reasons. It does not require special equipment, apart from a yoga mat and comfortable activewear. Other resources such as books and DVDs might help jumpstart this activity.