Yoga has been around for thousands of years. Yoga is a practice that started in India, and is now popular around the world. The word “yoga” means “union” in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. Yoga is the “union” or coming together of mind (thoughts and feelings) and the physical body.
Yoga for kids is becoming increasingly common, popping up in physical education programs, daycares, and being added to yoga studios. While the physical benefits—improving flexibility, strength and coordination—are certainly part of its charm, yoga is increasingly used as a relaxation technique to help anxious kids combat the stresses of everyday life. Because children encounter emotional, social and physical challenges or conflicts, practicing yoga and breathing techniques can be very beneficial.
Yoga helps children:
- Develop body awareness
- Learn how to use their bodies in a healthy way
- Manage stress and emotions through breathing, awareness, meditation and healthy movement
- Develops focus and concentration
- Boosts their Self esteem and confidence
- Strengthens the mind-body connection
- Feel part of a healthy, non-competitive group
Tips for teaching children yoga:
- Make sure the yoga is age appropriate. Keep in mind different ages have different levels of focus, range in motion and stability.
- 2-5 year olds. Toddlers are always on the move, they love stories and using their imagination. Turn yoga into a story or a journey, do movements that resemble animals or try ABC yoga, go through the alphabet coming up with movements that begin with each letter A for airplane, B for butterfly, C for cat.
- 5-8 year olds. This age group will still enjoy the imaginative and storytelling aspect, but they have developed the ability and strength to hold poses for longer.
- Consider the time of day. Young children are especially sensitive to the changing energies of the day, so consider this when deciding the best time to do yoga with them. Late morning is perfect – energy levels are high, so children can manage the posture work, which in turn helps them slip into an enjoyable, if short, relaxation.
- Make yoga fun. Music, props and games can be used to enhance a children’s yoga practice.
- Music can uplift and relax depending on the type and volume.
- Props like bells can help have the children hold a small hand bell and walk around the circle mindfully in an attempt to keep the bell silent.
- Games are also a fun way to incorporate yoga into daily activities; here is a list of yoga games.
- Mandalas are also a wonderful tool to aid in meditation and concentration. You can print mandala colouring pages and have the children colour in the beautiful patterns, a great way to focus the mind and calm the little yogi.
- Relaxation and meditation. This is an essential component in any child’s yoga practice. For very small children, just lying still for 1 minute while you tell them a story about a magic carpet floating them through the sky is enough! After, be sure to praise their efforts. Small children are worried that they are meant to go to sleep so reassure them that this is not expected.
The beauty of yoga is that children can practice alone, with a friend or with a group. Everyone can enjoy yoga – from tots to great-grandparents! Yoga is also a low-cost, helpful tool that can have a positive impact on children.
Here are some “move to calm” yoga poses to try with your little ones.
|1. “I am strong.” Pretend to be a surfer.
To do Warrior 2 Pose: From standing position, step one foot back, placing the foot so that it is facing slightly outwards. Take your arms up in parallel to the ground, bend your front knee, and look forward. Pretend to be a surfer and use your strength to catch tricky waves.
|2. “I am kind.” Pretend to be a tree.
To do Tree Pose: Stand on one leg, bend your knee, place the sole of your foot on the opposite inner thigh, and balance. Sway like a tree. Think of trees being kind by offering shade, creating oxygen, and providing homes to animals.
* NOTE: If children are unable to balance on one foot, just stand on both feet with arms above head.
|3. “I am brave.” Pretend to be a skier.
To do Chair Pose: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees, and keep a straight spine. Hold your hands out in front of you, pretending to grasp ski poles as you fly down a ski run like a brave and fearless skier.
|4. “I am friendly.” Pretend to be a dog.
To do Downward-Facing Dog Pose: Bend down and place your palms flat on the ground. Step your feet back to create an upside-down V shape with your buttocks high in the air. Straighten your legs, relax your head and neck, and look down between your legs. Think of being an eager and friendly dog.
|5. “I am wise.” Pretend to be an owl.
To do Hero Pose: Drop your knees to the ground and come down to rest upright on your heels. Then pretend to be a wise owl perched on a tree. Twist your upper body one way and then the other.