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Jan. 20, 2017
By Emily Thompson
U of A System Division of Agriculture
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A unique brand of yoga developed by the Arkansas Extension Service
is now helping youths in nine states improve their ability to concentrate, as well
as their flexibility and balance. And it all started with a call from a school counselor.
The 4-H Yoga for Kids Program was created when Jessica Vincent, Garland County extension
agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, received a call
from a school counselor looking for a way to help the kids in her school deal with
From its beginnings in 2013, the program has now spread across Arkansas and into Oklahoma,
South Dakota, New Jersey, New York, California, Georgia, Louisiana and Ohio. Instructors
from another seven states – Colorado, Texas, Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina, Washington
and Wisconsin, have also received training in Yoga for Kids. The curriculum is being
taught by more than 300 people nationwide.
The program fills the bill for children on several levels. With movements designed
with children in mind, Yoga for Kids aims to instill fitness habits at an early age
in hopes that it will stick with them into their adult lives by teaching them yoga
poses that can easily be done at home. This is key at time when childhood obesity
rates continue to grow and only one in three children take part in daily physical
activity, according to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.
Sillier and noisy
“It’s very much a 4-H brand of yoga,” said Lisa Washburn, associate professor-Health,
for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
The low cost and non-competitive nature of yoga make the program inclusive to all
children. “Some kids might not be wired to do a competitive activity,” Washburn said.
The poses that the program teaches are the similar to those in adult yoga, but were
carefully selected to ensure they’re safe for children and don’t place any undue stress
on any areas of the body, she said. In classic 4-H style, the poses are meant to
be performed in a noisy, joyful and fun manner. A lot of the poses are named after
animals, so younger kids can make the noises that the animals makes.
“It’s sillier. It’s not quiet,” said Washburn. “It’s usually noisy.”
Learning stress management
One of the main goals of the program is to teach kids about stress management.
“We have an awful lot of kids that go to the nurse’s office with a stomach ache, but
they don’t have digestive problems, they have anxiety,” Washburn said. “They just
don’t recognize it.”
The program teaches kids how to identify stress and healthy methods of coping, like
There is limited research on the benefits yoga has on children. However, some research
suggests it can lead to better concentration, self-esteem and listening skills. It
has also been shown to improve symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The Yoga for Kids program is working in partnership with Marilou Shreve, doctor of
nursing practice, to assess the impact the program has on stress and fitness in Northwest
Arkansas schools. Shreve is a clinical instructor at the University of Arkansas. The
study will occur during the spring 2017 semester.
Iris Phifer, Ashley County Extension staff chair for the Division of Agriculture,
leads yoga sessions in four schools in her county.
“We reach over 500 youths with that program in the schools,” Phifer said.
For the past two years, Ashley County Extension has held a Yoga for Kids camp. Youths
ages 9 to 19 learn about health and nutrition and play games. At the end of the two-day
camp, each camper received a yoga mat and certificate.
“The camp focused on the benefits of yoga, yoga props and equipment, breathing exercises,
learning yoga poses, partner poses, games and activities, making glitter bottles as
a way to reduce stress, and how to make a healthy plate,” said Phifer.
An instructional video that teaches the poses can be purchased at, https://pubs.uada.edu
For more information about receiving Yoga for Kids training, contact Lauren Copeland
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A System Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) firstname.lastname@example.org