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What’s So Good about Non-Competitive Kids Activities like Yoga?

These boys like sports and meditating.

The other day I saw a kid’s yoga poster touting yoga as “non-competitive” in one of the bullet points.  Most people know the benefits of playing sports, but the idea of doing a non-competitive activity, like yoga, is fairly new.   Do parents, educators, and coaches understand how a non-competitive activity can help today’s children and today’s health crisis?

Kids need a fresh look at exercise, one that doesn’t require them to be “Athletic.”  Kids need to see exercise as something that they can enjoy and something that can also save their lives. Exercise needs to enhance health, relieve stress, and serve us for a lifetime. We know Yoga fits the bill, but do others?

8 Benefits of Non-Competitive Sports like Kids Yoga as Compared to Competitive Sports

  1. Self-Esteem: Getting physical can be embarrassing for kids who are out of shape or un-coordinated, and there are too many kids out of shape these days to let there be obstacles like embarrassment.  The thought of gasping and tripping your way to learning to take a shot or play defense discourages many kids from even starting a team sport. In yoga, the learning curve is more private and personal. It’s easier to get started and you continue at your own pace.
  2. Resources: competitive sports need equipment, referees, a team of players and another team to play against. You don’t need anyone or anything to do yoga except a small open space – all the other props in yoga are really just extras.  After taking yoga, parents often witness kids downward dogging or meditating on the floor or in their bed.
  3. Participation: In competitive sports only a few people make the team and the rest are spectators.   In Yoga everyone participates, there are no spectators!
  4. Sports are Not for Life: Many kids who are athletes in school find a void once they finish school. Most eventually stop playing sports which means they stop exercising.  Yoga is a lifelong practice that grows with you as you grow older.
  5. In Yoga You Win For Sure: In the end, competitive sports are a win/lose proposition, that’s why we keep score and stats.  One side wins and one side loses.  In Yoga everyone feels like a winner after practicing.
  6. Sports Hurt!  OK – All Exercise Can Hurt: For an out of shape child, exercise hurts physically. Stretching hurts, running hurts, lifting hurts – you get the idea.  Yes, yoga will also hurt for a newbie too.  But yoga allows people to go at their own pace more easily than competitive sports.  Five minutes on the basketball court is a horror for someone out of shape.  In yoga, the individual can determine the intensity of their effort.  Five minutes of yoga is different for each person because there is no group expectation.  Working at your own pace makes exercise a more enjoyable experience which may keep kids exercising!
  7. Yoga Skills Transfer more Readily to Life: Balance, coordination, and focus carry off the court and the yoga mat.  These skills can be derived from sports, but they are learned directly in yoga.  In fact many athletes use yoga and meditation to help them control stress and anxiety and to help them visualize better.  If you do yoga, you directly learn skills to handle real life stress.
  8. Yoga Helps Us Look Inward instead of Outward: Life is a battlefield, just read the Bhagavad Gita.  We all need to find our inner compass, our inner Guru, to guide us through the battle.  Sports build us to be tough competitors. Yoga helps us decide what team to play for.

For the first part of my life I thought of myself as a non-athlete after I accidentally scored on my own net (What!  Passing to the goalie IS a soccer move).  In university I tried softball, mostly because they needed girls for the co-ed team.  While I loved playing, I stopped soon after graduating when our team started going their separate ways.

It wasn’t until I discovered yoga about 15 years ago that I found something that helped me feel healthy, happy, and centered, something I could do for life.  I’ve done it with different intensity over the years, yoga has always been there for me no matter where I’ve been.

Being able to communicate the benefits of a non-competitive activity like yoga may help other children find a healthy lifestyle too.

What does yoga give you that you don’t get from sports? What do sports give that yoga doesn’t? How can this info help teachers promote their kids yoga classes?

What is your experience of doing yoga and playing sports?

8 Comments
  1. Thanks for the comments everyone – I love it. Play yoga! Surprise your old gym teacher! and Find confidence through your personal practice!

    This is great feedback.

  2. Love this piece Aruna. It’s an excellent reminder of how important yoga is. I wanted to tweet and like on facebook to help spread but I’m not seeing the share buttons – am I missing them?

    • HI Anita – no your not missing them, I just haven’t figured out how to add them. I’m a fan of the Kids Love Yoga page so I’ll add it to your wall there. As for Twitter, I’m just out of the loop on this trend but I have plans to catch up one day!

  3. Great post – I am sharing on The PranaMama. While I too practice with varying regularity, I am more confident in my practice than I have ever been with any other sport. I like to run, but I doubt I’ll ever accomplish more than a 10k. When I do participate in races, I take the yoga attitude and forget about the others. Sure, I am at the back of the pack, but I care only about doing my best and listening to my body when it’s screaming at me to slow down. And you are right – I loved soccer as a kid, but when I reached high school and the competition to “make the team” was fierce, I quit. I haven’t played since.

    I am conscious of kids growing up in the shadow of their competitive parents. Many of my friends compete in road races and triathlons and I am starting to see their kids become absorbed into this world. While I think it’s wonderful that they are getting a glimpse of this healthy lifestyle early on, and experiencing it, I fear they will only learn to compete with others, and may suffer from many of the items you mentioned here.

    Thanks again for posting this – it’s been on my mind lately, as my own daughter shies away from competitive activities and games.

  4. I love this article! The joke around our house is how my old gym teachers would laugh to see me now. The child who was reluctant to move is now a yoga teacher. I was the child who consistently ‘forgot’ her gym clothes and had constant ‘sore ankles’ to avoid gym class.I am in better shape now than I was when I was 15. All because of yoga.
    Kids have enough opportunities in their week to be competitive. Yoga class is where they can safely be themselves. Giving them a place and skills to do that is the best part of my job. Go Yoga!

  5. What a wonderful examination of the benefits of not competing. Thank you Aruna. Yoga is a gift to athletes and non athletes. I like to say that yoga is a level playing field where we are all trying to discover our true selves and make that the best self it can be. There are friends and mentors along the way but it is a personal journey that will last a lifetime. Enjoy it! Play yoga!

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