Why Yoga is Great for Kids
Kids Yoga is a great way to teach children how to manage their stress levels, build concentration, increase confidence and promote a positive self-image. It also helps kids develop body awareness and teaches them the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, by combining a diet rich in nutrients with physical movement and mindfulness.
Giving children the tools to balance their emotions, calm nerves and develop a sense of self is one of the best things to teach your children. Furthermore, teaching kids yoga helps to promote connection to themselves, one another and the planet.
Children need yoga!! And they are never too young to begin a yoga practice.
A wonderful and simple way to start is with breathing. When children are upset, they tend to hold their breath, breathe rapidly, or have trouble catching their breath while crying. Encouraging a child to take one or a few deep, slow breaths can help them calm down physically and emotionally. Pausing to take a deep breath is a lifestyle practice that can be useful at any age.
- “Take 5” Finger Breathing
This one works well to help a child settle down at the end of the day.
- Ask your child to hold up their hand and trace their fingers from the thumb to the pinky (or in reverse) with the other hand
- As they trace up the finger, tell them to take a deep breath in
- Then, as they trace down the finger, tell them to slowly breath out
You can have your child repeat this several times if they’d like. Often, by the time the child reaches the last finger on the first round, they’re already noticeably calmer and more relaxed. So simple, yet so effective! This is an excellent, easy form of breathing that helps children unwind – perfect before bed.
- Make the yoga age appropriate
There is a difference between a lively, excitable 3 year-old, a mischievous 8 year-old testing boundaries, and a serious, under pressure 16 year-old. Hence, the yoga you practice with your kids must be appropriate to their age group. Pre-schoolers love stories and imagination. The general pace of this yoga practice is very quick, swiftly moving from one aspect to the next. 5-8 year-olds will still enjoy the imaginative and storytelling aspect, but they have a more developed ability to hold poses for longer.
- Consider the time of day you practice
Young children are especially sensitive to the changing energies of the day, so be particular on when you think would be the best time to do yoga with them. Yoga should be a positive experience, so practicing when they are tired and their attention span is very short will not yield the best results.
- Make Yoga Fun
Using props like feathers and scarves can be used to show breath and movement. Have the children lay a feather on their flat palm and try to blow it off – this is a fun challenge for small children as they begin to master the art of directing and controlling their breath.
Another good practice is to have the children hold a small hand bell and walk around the circle mindfully in an attempt to keep the bell silent. Mandalas are another wonderful tool to aid in meditation and concentration. You can print them from the internet and have the children color in the beautiful patterns, a great way to focus the mind and calm the little yogi. Remember that yoga is not always based on physical movement. Discussion and creating a safe space for opening up is also vital to children in today’s world.
- Relaxation and meditation
This is an essential component in any child’s yoga practice. For very small children, just lying still for 1 minute while you tell them a story about a magic carpet floating them through the sky is enough! After, be sure to praise their efforts. Small children are worried that they are meant to go to sleep so reassure them that this is not expected. Lying down and staying still is very difficult for little ones, so lots of encouragement is key.
Meditation may simply be 10 seconds of concentrated silence with eyes closed.
Older children need a longer relaxation. It is hard for them to let go and unwind, so a more in-depth relaxation is key. Yoga Nidra is perfect to guide them to “let go.” Guide them through the body, tensing and relaxing each part in turn, which not only encourages body awareness but also allows them to feel their muscles relax. Below is a set of instructions for leading children through a guided relaxation:
- Invite them to lay in Savasana (or any comfy position, but encourage Savasana – final resting pose – as a much as possible).
- Remind them that this is relaxation and not sleep.
- Encourage some deep breathing to begin the gentle process of relaxing.
- Notice any tense legs and pointed toes (I assure you there will be) and if they don’t mind, you can hold the ankles and shake the legs for them, wiggle them side to side and pull slightly on the feet to encourage relaxation.
- Depending on age, or energy level, you can either begin to bring them out of their Savasana at this point, or if you feel it appropriate, tell them a story that brings them on a magical journey – to a special place / fly through the sky to a rainbow / journey on their own cloud – get creative!
- When you’re ready, slowly ease them out of their resting state by instructing them to wiggle fingers and toes, stretch, hug knees into chest, etc.
- Easy Poses To Try
Start with some easy stretches & poses. Feel free to adapt or change the yoga poses to suit your needs. The focus should be on having fun with movement, not on practicing perfectly aligned poses. Wear comfortable clothing and practice barefoot.
- Resting Pose – Lie on your back with your arms and legs stretched out. Breathe and rest.
- Easy Pose – Sit comfortably cross-legged, and rest your hands on your knees.
- Mountain Pose – Stand tall with legs hip-width apart, feet facing forward, and straighten your arms alongside your body.
- Child’s Pose – Sit on your heels, slowly bring your forehead down to rest in front of your knees, rest your arms down alongside your body, and take a few deep breaths.
- Downward Facing Dog Pose – From a standing position, bend down and place your palms flat on the ground. Step your feet back to create an upside-down V shape with your buttocks high in the air. Straighten your legs, relax your head and neck, and look down between your legs.
- Upward Facing Dog Pose – Lay on your belly. Place the palms of your hands next to your shoulders and look up. Then straighten your arms and expand your chest.
- Happy Baby Pose – Lie on your back with your chin tucked in, hug your knees into your chest, then grab the outer part of your feet with both of your hands, and rock like a happy baby.
- Lotus Pose – Sit with a tall spine, cross your legs, and rest the palms of your hands on your knees. Relax and breathe.
- Plank Pose – Step back to balance on your palms and on your bent toes, keeping your arms straight and your back long and flat. Pretend to be an alligator floating in the water.
- Three-Legged Dog Pose – Step back to hands and feet, like an upside-down “V”, and gently lift one leg up at a time.
- Tree Pose – Stand on one leg, bend your knee, place the sole of your foot on your inner thigh, and balance.
- Warrior Pose – From standing position, step one foot back, placing the foot so that it is facing slightly outwards. Take your arms up in parallel to the ground, bend your front knee, and look forward.
- Seated Forward Bend Pose – Come to sitting on your buttocks, with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your torso forward while keeping your spine straight. Dangle your arms in front of you like the tentacles of an octopus.
- Legs Up The Wall Pose – Lie flat on your back then slowly raise your legs up straight towards the sky, making an L shape with your body. Flex your feet, keep your legs together, spread your arms out to either side, and keep your neck in a neutral position. You could rest your legs on a wall instead.
And finally just remember – no matter what the child gets out of their yoga practice with you, it is all good and will benefit them. To allow children to experience yoga from a young age is an incredible gift and will always be a positive aspect to their day, their wellbeing, and their lives overall.