As adult yoga students, we all know the benefits of a good practice. Many of us who began our participation did so to achieve physical benefit—better balance, stronger muscles, enhanced flexibility—and have since seen the “yoga juju” bleed over into other areas of our lives.
Our stress management has improved. Our breathing is better. We have more of a tendency to say “Man, everything’s cool, just let it go...” with a spacey, smiley expression on our faces.
Wouldn’t it be great to have been able to feel this good since we were, like, 2 years old? Well, even though we can’t turn back the clock on ourselves (much as yoga teaches us that time is sort of a squishy element after all), we can certainly sneak some yoga into our kids’ lives in steps both large and small.
Here are five ways to make yoga for kids engaging and have a killer time in the process. (Special bonus: YOU get to squeeze more yoga into your life as well!)
1. Tell A Sun Salutation Story Every Morning.
After you get those initial yawns, stretches, and visits to the potty out of the way, try starting this habit and see how you and your kid feel after a week or so. Pretty good, I bet. The story I tell my weekly toddler classes goes something like this, but you can adjust the story and the language to fit the age of your kids:
“Reach your arms high and wave to the sun! Thank the sun for shining! Now, reach down low and thank the grass for growing on the ground! Now, we put our tummies on the floor. Did you know even doggies are thankful for the sun? Let’s be doggies and check to see if the sun is still shining! (Move into Up Dog) And, now, let’s let the sun shine on our tails! (Move into Down Dog) And, finally, we stand up and reach high to thank the sun one more time for shining before we start our day!”
2. Personal Grooming And Balance Poses Go Hand-In-Hand
How many ways can you do Tree pose and brush your teeth? How about Warrior 3? Dancer while combing hair? Seated Toe-Grabber while in the tub? I bet you could come up with a million more. These poses just take a minute, but they count for putting yoga into your day in both silly and serious ways.
3. TV Can Be Your Yoga Muse.
Sure, we try to limit screen time for our young ones. But what if screen time became a game to help create NEW yoga poses?
Several of my wee students have favorite TV characters and they come to class with very particular ideas on how to make their bodies look like their heroes. Some great examples for characters that are easily imitated yoga-style are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Big Bird, the kids from Super Why, Curious George, and Paw Patrol…to name just a few.
You can show the “official” poses for things like turtle and dog, but let your kids be creative as well. Ask them to earn their screen time by coming up with 5 poses during their favorite show.
4. Get Some Feathers, For Krishna’s Sake!
Breath work is a major limb of yoga right and is important to transporting us to the land of bliss and relaxation. How many 3-year-olds do you know who want to sit around and breathe for 30 minutes? I thought so. (#boring!)
But, if you get some feathers, the whole game changes. Feathers (the colored kind you can buy in any craft store) make for an exhuberant and thoughtful time out of deliberate breathing. You can see who can keep their feather afloat the longest with just their breath.
Get down on the floor and scoot your feather the length of the room, puffing away as you go. Play “catch” by blowing your feather back and forth to each other. Set up small obstacles on the floor or table, and blow your feather through the maze you’ve created. I could go on and on, and so could your kids, I bet.
5. End The Day With Three Deep, Deep, DEEP Breaths.
As you are tucking in your child, take these three breaths together, filling up your tummies like balloons, and blowing out your thanks for three special people in your kids’ lives. They get to pick the people each night. Close with hands at heart, and a whispered “Namaste” to shuffle them off gently to a peaceful Wee yogi sleep.
Children all come to yoga differently. Some take to it like the proverbial duck to water, and others watch and play during class, but show off their skills to parents much later. Kids take in what they are fed. Sometimes they have to learn to like it, just like vegetables, but they are so much better for the challenge.
When you approach yoga as a game and a good time, kids begin to crave both the active AND contemplative parts of the practice. Imagine if we all had someone to teach us yoga when we were little. I bet the world would be a much different (read: better) place.
In the famous words of Gandhi , let us all “Be the change you (we) wish to see in the world” by incorporating a little yoga in our little ones’ lives each and every day.