Yoga for Kids
Whether or not you are a parent, you likely know that the options for extracurricular activities are abundant for our kids today. As a mom, I have seen first-hand the endless options for sports and clubs compared to when I was a kid. And while any yogi knows the benefits of a yoga practice, some admittedly wonder why would we add one more thing to the list of options for our already busy children. Practicing yoga is life-giving! Why else would yogis of all abilities, beliefs, ages, shapes, and sizes continue unrolling their mats? Yoga is good for our bodies, minds, and our souls. And with the increased demands of life and many of the distractions we cannot seem to escape, the need for yoga with our children is greater than ever. Kids today need safe spaces. Kids need movement and mindfulness. Kids need to learn to breathe and listen to their bodies. Kids need to be valued, learn self-respect, and discover gratitude in life. I can only imagine how my life may be different if I had learned the life-giving discipline of yoga at a young age. Ready? Grab a mat and let’s discover and share our love and passion for yoga with our future.
I’m often asked what makes a kid’s yoga class different than a traditional yoga class. A few things are different in regards to how we structure the class but one stands out above the rest - make it fun! Of course, there are many “fun” yoga classes for adults too. Most often, adults unroll their mat and protect their corner of the floor by staking out their space with a water bottle or other personal items. In our YogiKids class, we set up our mats in a circle for practice together. We get cozy and we always play! Every week we start out letting go of the wiggles with some fun music (stretching and warming up). We then move into a silly game like musical mats, yogi says, or freeze frame (Google them or check out a book). Next up is gratitude. Each week we discover different ways to share gratitude with one another and nearly every week among the top ranked answers like “I’m thankful for my family or my friends” out comes “I’m thankful for yoga.” Yoga is more than postures for these kids, yoga is a way of thinking, acting and living life.
While we have plenty of fun in kid's yoga, breath work and meditation are key! Relaxation pose is usually mentioned by the kids each week at the end of class as a favorite. Yes, there are a few kids that struggle to be still. However, the majority love the calming music, they crave it. We use different poses (legs up the wall) or props (bean bags on their bellies) to keep it fresh and different. For those that struggle, a light touch often settles them onto their mats for a few moments of stillness. In the early stages of our class, we discovered parents returning for pick-up during this relaxation time. We adjusted the class to conclude with a partner pose or entire class pose! Now our YogiKids beg to return to Lizard on a Rock or Zipper Pose! Turns out they often share these partner poses with other siblings and their parents during the week (win-win!).
Thinking of sharing the yoga love with the kids in your life? Read “Yoga for Children” by Lisa Flynn. There are also lots of fun yoga pose cards, one of my favorite decks is “Yoga Pretzels” by Tara Guber. Our kids enjoy being given a card and working together to better understand and teach the pose to one another. And just a reminder, sharing the love for kid's yoga doesn’t always have to be organized. When our niece and nephews visit, we find a moment to play and practice together. It’s a non-competitive practice that I believe you are never too young or too old to embrace.
Over a decade ago the University of California found that children who experienced yoga instruction on a regular basis had greater self-esteem, overall fitness, and academic performance. They even had a decrease in discipline problems. These students also said they felt more relaxed and were more respectful of their peers. Who doesn’t want to help our children love themselves, respect others, and appreciate this life they have been given more deeply? Just like you and me, the benefits of yoga for children are endless. No, it isn’t “one more thing” to add to their list. It’s a gift of a lifestyle with unending growth and opportunity.
Whitney began practicing yoga for recovery after a stroke and brain surgery in 2004. She is a certified spiritual director and yoga instructor, living in Mt. Juliet. Connect with Whitney at www.exploringpeace.com.