Healthy Kids Series: Yoga for Kids

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School kids meditating during yoga class

Look at all the yoga out there today. Yoga of every kind is now available.  We mean, if goats and cats are doing it, why not your kiddos too?  Before you go out and buy a mini mat, we have a few tools you can use when introducing your child to yoga poses, as well as a few good reasons why this is a thing.  

Kids yoga poses:  Begin here.

Did you know that yoga began in India as a meditation practice some 5000 years ago?  That’s right; deep breathing and stretching have been around a long time. Even before science was science, people simply felt good as well as more connected to their inner and outer worlds while breathing deeply and stretching.

It follows that the early yoga originators kept teaching other people to do it as a practice that brought about good feelings and increased a sense of self-awareness. Yogas also brought connection to something more significant than the individual.  

Bear with us; we have a little more back story before we hit the mat. The word “yoga” means “to yoke”  or “to join together” in the ancient Sanskrit language. We can take this to suggest today that the concept of “yoga” can apply to many areas of life–the “yoga” of relationships, the “yoga” of learning, the “yoga” of our bodies, our families, and more.

The branch of yoga with which we are most familiar here in the US is called the Asana branch.  Asana refers to “movement” or body position. A yoga student at any age can come to his practice through any form of intentional connection. Perhaps the easiest way to introduce the benefits of yoga to kids is through teaching them to move their bodies in kids yoga poses.  

Little girl practicing yoga pose on a mat indoor

Incidentally, there are some fantastic side-benefits that you and your child may notice as you play around with yoga poses on the regular:

  • Improved coordination
  • Better balance
  • Increased muscular strength
  • A calmer mind
  • A fun way to manage big emotions like anger or frustration
  • More restful sleep, or a more relaxed bedtime routine

And finally, before we get into the nitty-gritty of kids yoga poses, there are a few things to remember to help your kids’ yoga practice go well and be a source of calm and comfort for many years to come.

A short practice is a sweet practice.  

Don’t worry if your child is only willing to try a couple of yoga poses at first.  Kids as young as three years do well with yoga in small doses. Try picking up a deck of yoga cards for kids in a bookstore or online.  

Choose a couple of pose cards and do them with your child.  When your kiddo loses interest, put the deck away for another time.  A quick Google search will get you over ten products under $20.

Mother and daughter have yoga class in the park.

Always include a few deep breaths when doing yoga.

Beginning your yoga practice with 4 or 5 slow and deep breaths sets the stage for focus and body awareness. Intentional breathing is a foundational tenant of yoga movement, and the technique can be used off the mat in everyday life.

When your child comes running to you with her next physical or emotional “owie,” a soft reminder to “use our yoga breath” comes in handy for bringing immediate calm to the situation.

Play with music for extra yoga fun.

Try doing a few simple yoga poses to your child’s favorite songs.  The music will be engaging and the yoga poses add extra flair to an already enjoyable activity.

Finish your short practice with relaxation time.

Historically, the Asana or pose work of yoga was performed to prep the body and mind for meditation.  You can teach your child the value of taking time out to enjoy stillness by finishing your yoga practice with “savasana” or final relaxation.  

Do your savasana by lying comfortably on a mat or carpet and returning to several slow and deep breaths.  You could even suggest your child think a few quiet thoughts about being thankful or being helpful to others.  Older kids will be able to hang out in stillness for longer than younger kids, so adjust this time to the tolerance of your child.

girl doing yoga and gymnastics in the gym

And now, a few awesome kids yoga poses!

Even though yoga has a reputation for attempting to turn us all into pretzels, there are many poses that very young children to school agers can do with high success.  Here are just a few. You can also try an online kids yoga program like Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube or an app for your phone or tablet.

  • Chair pose (Utkatasana):  Stand with both feet underneath you slightly apart.  Sit your hips back as if into an imaginary chair. While “sitting”, try raising arms up overhead.  How low can you go? When does sitting feel really hard? You can have your child find their limits, do a countdown from 10 to hold the pose, or recite the alphabet while in this pose.
  • Tree pose (Virasana):  Stand on one foot, and raise the other foot to rest on the calf of the standing leg. Stand up straight and tall. Place both palms together at your heart.  How high can you count before losing balance?
  • Cat pose (Marjaiasana):  Come to the floor on hands and knees.  Place the knees directly under the hips and the hands under the shoulders.  Round your spine towards the ceiling, tucking your chin to your chest and your “tail” underneath you, stretching like a cat after a long nap.  For very young students, you can all “meow” together out loud for this one.

No matter how young or old you are, yoga benefits happen quickly while on the mat as well as slowly and gradually over time.  Starting your child on yoga in a fun and engaging way may be the key to her staying healthy, calm, and stress-free as an adult.  What a great gift to give your favorite little yogis!

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