For parents who aren’t familiar with the practice of yoga, it can seem intimidating to introduce it to their children. What’s important to understand is that yoga is not about religion, but rather about an ethical way of living one’s life and staying healthy.
Yoga is about exploring and learning in a fun, safe and non-competitive way! Here are just a few of the benefits:
Unique within a Group
Kids Yoga is a group activity that is also self-paced. We do things in a group, but timing and skill level are totally individual. Every child’s version of downward dog is different. Self-pacing allows each child time to figure out the movement or shape of the pose at their unique level with no pressure to perform in a particular way.
Attention in the Breath
Kids learn to focus their attention with breathing. They are often in environments where they have little control. They can’t take a walk if they’re feeling too antsy at school, or start soccer practice at a time that works best for their personal rhythm. But they can learn to use their breath to self-soothe in any situation, and they do!
Last week a student was wobbling in tree pose and falling a lot. We locked eyes across the room and I said, “Remember your yoga breath”.
The pose got steady and strong, and that student couldn’t wait to tell Mom and Dad about how great it felt to be able to focus like that. I think most adult yoga students realize how different our youth would have been if we had learned to use our breath.
Making Movement an Exploration
Yoga gets kids to explore movement at every angle to gravity. When I was little, we climbed trees, built things, went upside down, carried each other, etc. – all in a day’s play. These days, more than ever, kids need activities that include varied movements (standing, balancing, hand standing, sitting, lying down, all fours, etc.).
It’s empowering for kids to figure out how to balance on one leg, or how to aim their feet so they can do a double downward dog with a classmate. It’s important for them to develop these coordination skills.
The Social Side
We relate to each other in a unique way in yoga as we emphasize community, peace, harmony, and serenity. We laugh a lot, too – there’s no worrying over being the last one to get into candlestick pose. We’re doing the movements for the natural enjoyment of moving our bodies.
Learning to Relax
Kids love savasana! What kid (or adult) doesn’t suffer from some degree of overstimulation these days? After our active yoga time we enjoy a few moments of quiet. Each child is invited to use an eye pillow, and they lie down and relax. I will sometimes guide their breath for a few rounds, or tell a simple story.
Some teachers massage the kids’ feet or hands during relaxation, or give the kids something special to hold, like a beanie baby. Savasana can be approached in unique, creative ways, depending on the students and the environment.
When I teach in school P.E. classes we don’t break out the eye pillows – we have a moment sitting cross-legged at the end of class where we breathe together. I’ve been lucky enough to see kids have that “aha!” moment when they make a connection between soft breathing and the calming of their emotions, or how following sensations inside can open up a new world of fascination.
— Yoga for Children (@yogaforchild) May 18, 2018
Sometimes we just rest, without me adding anything to their experience – it can be a relief for students just to “be” together – no TV, no computer, no social persona to maintain for a few brief minutes…
The Fun of Ceremony
Children love ceremony. In my experience, kids love being ceremonious. We can see this in their play. We start class by passing around a Tibetan bell, each child getting a turn to ring it. Sometimes we’re serious and sometimes we’re silly – I’m sure every kids yoga teacher has a fun mini-ceremony to help the kids change gears for yoga.