Yoga for kids is a growing trend and form of exercise that teaches healthy habits, mental wellness and overall health. As many schools and programs begin to teach yoga as an extracurricular activity, it’s obvious that starting practice at an early age can lead to a lifelong ritual of wellness and mental clarity. Emerging research reports yoga can help school-age children develop strength, balance and focus, not to mention combat ADHD, hyperactivity, inattentiveness and impulsivity.
But how can an ancient practice hold the attention of children? Experts say to make yoga playful and fun. Weave in interesting stories and narratives with positive themes like gratitude, confidence and acceptance to stimulate both their physical and mental needs.
Here are a few tips and tricks to get your kids excited about yoga.
You can consider yoga for when you are pregnant as well as yoga for your baby. Prenatal yoga is one way to introduce yoga to your child before they are even born, and postnatal yoga will help you continue that practice into their infancy and beyond. Research suggests that maintaining a healthy prenatal practice can actually improve sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, increase the strength and flexibility of muscles needed during labor and decrease many of the symptoms of pregnancy including nausea and lower back pain. Prenatal yoga can teach you how to breathe, gentle stretching and how to mentally cool down and relax, all core exercises that can help you during pregnancy.
While at certain times it is important for you to practice yoga in a quiet place, away from your kids, it’s great for kids to be around you while you’re practicing, and to see you exercising healthy habits. Invite your kids to take part in your own practice, even if it’s not specific postures or asanas, but rather making shapes with their bodies and moving freely. By taking part in the movement and practice in a designated place in your home, your child will connect the benefits of spending quality time with you to yoga, and therefore want to practice more often.
Yoga doesn’t have to be super serious, and should be fun and optional for young ones. With that being said, if you’re meditating at home, for example, they should be allowed to sit with you or in your lap for as long as they’d like to sit still, but let them know that they should quietly move when they’re done and not disrupt your meditation. Part of what they’ll learn through yoga is this respect for their own and others’ bodies.
Yoga can help kids learn that they can clear their minds and take care of their bodies. If they see you doing yoga in the hotel room balcony on vacation, or turning to yoga to ground yourself in a more stressful situation, that practice will come to them naturally when they’re a busy adult who needs some balance.
Certain yoga classes, especially free or donation-based ones, are set up so people of any level can join. Ask your local studio about any outdoor yoga classes or public practices in your community. The beach is a great environment for starting your kids out with yoga because there isn't as much pressure to be quiet. If they get bored or need to wiggle they can play nearby in the sand and not disrupt the class.
A park is also a nice option for a similar experience. Outside yoga classes are also great options for kids of different ages and attention spans. One child might practice throughout the whole class, and one might do a few poses and then play with their dinosaur toys nearby.
Kids’ yoga videos are a great way to introduce your kids to yoga from the comfort of your own home. This is a nice option (not just for kids, really, but for adults, too!) because they can get familiar with poses and concepts before ever entering a yoga class. This understanding and prior knowledge builds confidence in a real class. There are physical DVDs you can purchase, as well as many online video options for kids. Check out YouTube for kids yoga classes, or consider an online subscription. Kids can join your video classes, of course, but finding kids yoga classes specifically which use kids’ yoga poses can be fun for them, as well.
Practice these poses at home with your kids as fundamental practice for yoga. Make the exercises fun by comparing each pose to a shape. Here are the nine best yoga poses to practice with your kid.
Bridge Pose is a basic yoga pose that is practiced universally. It stretches the spine, improves digestion, reduces back ache, and in general creates a calm throughout the body and mind.
Have fun with Cat Pose! Here, you can ask your child to impersonate a cat, even adding a few meows! This pose is a traditional yoga asana that stretches the back, reduces anxiety and supports healthy digestion. Follow this pose with Cow Pose, moo-ing is recommended!
Cow Pose naturally follows Cat Pose (above). In this pose, you lower your belly to the mat and will feel a nice stretch throughout the whole back, releasing stress and anxiety.
Cobra Pose stretches is a floor pose and a slight, enjoyable back bend. The benefits of practicing this pose include better posture and lower stress and anxiety.
Downward Facing Dog is a fundamental yoga pose that strengthens the arms and legs, and stills the mind, reducing anxiety and relieving stress.
Practice Happy Baby Pose with your kid for a fun pose that's sure to cause some laughter. This pose is very carefree and offers a nice stretch throughout the hips, perfect for active little tykes.
There is a reason why many people argue that Corpse Pose is the best pose of all. This floor pose requires stillness and mindfulness, it is also essential for the end of practice and necessary to reap the benefits of a class.
Easy Pose is an excellent pose if you are just trying meditation for the first time. This position stretches the hips, ankles and knees, as well as lowers anxiety and stress.