Kids naturally love to move, and they still have their natural flexibility and suppleness that we start to lose once we spend hours sitting in chairs, like in school! Yoga for kids encourages this natural love of motion and facilitates adventures in which kids can further explore their bodies and the amazing things they can do. Yoga adventures also stimulate young imaginations by encouraging the visualization of various animals/creatures for poses: “Make your body into a little ball like a tiny mouse! Or let’s put our legs up the wall and stand on our hands like upside down spiders! Can you be a peeing dog? Try to lift one leg behind you in the air from dog pose?!”
In addition to being a whole lot of fun, yoga for kids also creates kinesthetic awareness that promotes the development of good co-ordination and the fine and gross motor skills so important to the developing child. Kids’ yoga helps to boost self-esteem and confidence and provides an environment where positive peer relationships are fostered, and healthy life style habits encouraged.
Typically, kids’ yoga classes are based around a story or adventure, and the children’s bodies become the characters, the things they encounter, even the modes of transportation for the adventure – boats, bicycles, airplanes….and as with adult yoga, a time for quiet stillness and reflection is part of kids’ yoga too. Relaxation and deep breathing are coping tools that can be as important to children as to adults.
Some tips for encouraging our kids to do yoga at home: Try Being Trees!
- Take time to be trees in a forest (vrksasana/tree pose), letting littler children just balance the toes of the raised leg on the floor next to the standing foot.
- Talk them through noticing how their one foot is rooting into the earth. Let them imagine roots growing from the foot, deep down into the ground, to hold them there. Draw their attention to the strong and firmly held trunk of the tree –the leg and torso (abs and pelvic floor muscles engaged to help balance). Let them wave branches (their arms and fingers) in the breeze.
- And then take a moment to sit down quietly, close your eyes and imagine you are in a forest. What sounds can you “hear”? Birds chirping? Wind rustling? Encourage children to make the sounds they imagine hearing for you.
- Talk about how trees are important to life on earth, how they clean the air for us to breathe and provide homes for birds and animals and how we can look after trees – e.g. recycling paper.
- Then do some deep breathing, lying in savasna/relaxation pose, imagining that you are lying in a beautiful forest. Describe the forest for your children to visualize, focusing on all the senses – what can you hear, feel, see, smell, taste as you lie there. Or if there is an older child, perhaps have them describe the forest – great creative writing practice!
- Once you have had a few minutes of quietness, encourage the children to draw the forest they pictured and the animals or birds they heard in it.