As adults, we often think of yoga as a way to de stress from our busy and hectic lives. But what about children?
Between school pressures, extracurricular activities, and competitive sports to name just a few, kids have a lot on their plates, too. Often, they live in a “hurry up” world where they are jostled from activity to activity.
And just like adults, children encounter emotional, social, and physical challenges or conflicts throughout their day and need to learn how to understand, process, and handle them.
When yoga is presented in children’s language, the practice can bring wonderful benefits to their health and well being. Not only does yoga help build physical strength and balance, but yoga also teaches children body awareness, spatial awareness, relaxation techniques, and, perhaps most importantly, mindfulness.
Think about it—children are already experts at mindfulness in certain areas of their life. Have you ever marveled at their concentration during playtime when they are drawing their favorite picture or building a tall, intricate Lego castle?
Using yoga to build and cultivate mindfulness can help it spill out onto other areas of their life. It can teach children to be mindful of their emotions and how they are feeling—are they anxious, tired, excited, worried? It teaches children to listen to what their body is telling them. Over time, this can radiate even further, helping children to become mindful of the others around them and their feelings, too. Learning simple breathing techniques with inhaling and exhaling can also help children put space between their actions and reactions.
If the above reasons alone aren’t enough to give children’s yoga a try, yoga is also welcoming and has very little barriers to entry. Not all children are into competitive sports, and yoga serves as a way to embrace physical activity without the pressures of competition. Yoga can also be practiced anywhere; all children need is a little space and an open mind.
If you’re already on board with the idea of children’s yoga, you might be wondering where to start. Many studios are starting to add children’s classes with the goal to teach classic yoga poses in a fun, playful way and lay the foundation for a lifetime of loving yoga. But yoga can also be introduced at home and practiced as a family.
Here are some common (and fun) poses for children that you can begin practicing today:
Tree Pose (Vrksasana): Tree Pose can help your child feel grounded and strong as well as build focus. Start by standing and firmly rooting both feet into the ground. Have your child shift their weight to one leg and slowly raise their other foot, placing it on the inside of the calf being careful to avoid placing on the knee. As they begin to balance, ask them if they want to try growing their “branches,” or stretching their arms overhead.
This pose not only helps build balance but can even help with spatial awareness. A few wobbly trees between siblings will help them realize how much space they need and how much space to give others!
Lion Pose (Simhasana): You can count on animals to make yoga fun. Help little ones release some energy or blow off steam in a pose they will quickly learn to love—lion pose. Have your child sit cross-legged and place their palms on their knees. Next, have them splay their claws (fingers) like a powerful lion and get ready for the best part. Instruct them to open their mouths, stick out their tongue, and give their best roar. Repeat the roar a few more times.
Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana): While many adults might need to work up to this pose, kids are naturally flexible, and most can perform this pose with ease.
For this pose, teach your child to come down onto one knee and stretch the other leg far back behind. Place both hands firmly on the ground inside the bent knee. If they want to go even further, instruct them to place their forearms on the ground, like a lizard skulking around an island. Once finished, make sure to repeat on the other side.
If your children already love these poses and want to try more, we’ve shared some of our favorite resources below for getting children involved in yoga.
Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids by Kristen Fischer introduces kids to many more yoga poses involving animals with colorful illustrations and kid-friendly language.
Cosmic Kids Yoga is a great visual tool on YouTube for introducing kids (and parents!) to yoga. They even created themed yoga sessions with favorite characters such as Harry Potter, Moana, Frozen, and Star Wars!
What about you? Do you or your children practice yoga? Does your child have a favorite yoga pose? If so, share in the comments below!