Support and improve reading with yoga
Can it really be possible to improve reading with yoga? Well, along with many other health benefits, yoga can also help children learn to read by increasing their concentration and refining their visual tracking skills.
Increase concentration through yoga
Research has shown that yoga in schools has been found to have “exerted positive effects on factors such as emotional balance, attentional control*, cognitive efficiency, anxiety, negative thought patterns, emotional and physical arousal, reactivity, and negative behavior.”
* emphasis added here
We know that by activating the proprioceptive sense, we can help children to reach and maintain the optimum level of alertness for learning (neither over excited nor drowsy). In this state of optimal alertness, children are better able to concentrate and focus on their learning, including reading. This of course, is a significant benefit of teaching yoga in schools.
Yoga breathing exercises such as those listed below are another way for children (and adults!) to improve concentration.
Try these yoga poses & breathing activities to improve concentration:
Seated forward bend (sandwich pose)
Bee breathing (snuggle up together with a book, try a few bee breaths to relax and focus before you begin reading)
Support and improve reading with yoga poses & activities to encourage visual tracking skills
What is visual tracking?
“Visual tracking is… the ability to efficiently move the eyes from left to right (or right to left, up and down, and circular motions) OR focusing on an object as it moves across a person’s visual field. This skill is important for almost all daily activities, including reading, writing, cutting with scissors, drawing, and playing.” – The OT Toolbox
Why is visual tracking important for reading?
Visual tracking ability typically develops in children around the age of 5. This is of course, the age that most children start school and begin to learn to read. Good visual tracking skills are essential for reading. In fact, poor visual tracking skills can cause dyslexia-like symptoms, such as:
reversing letters (b & d)
skipping words or lines when reading
not understanding what has been read
How can we help children to develop their visual tracking skills?
Now that we know how fundamental visual tracking skills are for reading, we will naturally want to help our children to develop them. The good news is that there are lots of fun ways to practice and improve visual tracking.
Yoga poses and activities such as those below can help to develop visual tracking skills:
Floating feather breath (watch and follow the floating feather after you have blown it away)
Other fun ways to develop visual tracking skills include:
Reading aloud (or reading along in your head, while listening to the audiobook of the text you have chosen). ‘Hearing your own [or another] voice in real time will force your eyes and brain to work together.’ – beatingdyslexia.com
Play ball games
Walk along a log, or a chalk line on the ground without stepping off it
Fly a kite & watch it swoop & soar
Do dot-to-dot pictures
Complete jigsaw puzzles
Core strength to improve visual tracking
Many yoga poses and activities develop the ‘core’ (shoulder, spinal, hip and abdominal) muscles. It has been found that a strong, well developed core is key to overcoming learning challenges, including difficulty reading. This makes perfect sense, as having a strong, stable core gives your head and eyes a secure starting point for visual tracking. Once a child has developed a stable core, he or she will be able to devote their concentration fully to the task at hand (for example reading). This comes naturally to adults, but children must be given the opportunity to develop their core strength & balance through physical activity.
‘Strengthening the core muscles will help your body to balance and coordinate itself properly. By doing this, it helps your eye muscles to work in sync. beatingdyslexia.com
‘When children have difficulties maintaining postural control it involves more energy. Therefore during higher cognitive load tasks such as reading, attention is shared, possibly decreasing learning capabilities.’ yourtherapysource.com
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