If you’re reading this, you’re probably already tuned into the benefits of the yoga lifestyle.
From the physical benefits like increasing strength and flexibility, protecting your spine, boosting immunity, and lowering blood pressure, to the more subtle benefits like having better sleep, increased focus, stress relief, and calming the mind and cultivating self-love.
So with all these amazing benefits, it’s a no-brainer to get your kiddies involved as soon as possible. There are heaps of children’s yoga classes popping up around the world, but we’ve come up with a couple tips for introducing kids to the yoga lifestyle and yoga practices.
1. Make yoga fun for them.
While this is a tip I think everyone can benefit from, it’s especially important for adults to keep in mind when introducing yoga (particularly asana) to kids.
Smile, laugh, and enjoy the special time with your little one. They can do nothing wrong in yoga and wherever they are is right where they are meant to be. Allow them to explore the postures and interpret them the way they’d like to interpret them.
Don’t be attached to what yoga is ‘supposed’ to look like, and following a set number of postures or fixed time limit. Practice letting go of preconceived ideas of how a ‘session’ should flow. Bring the yoga lifestyle to life, and lead by example.
2. Start with animal poses.
When introducing yoga asana to kids, bring them to life in a way they can understand it. In my kids yoga classes, I always say, “We’re going to make animal shapes with our bodies!” The kids get very excited. I also like to ask each child what their favourite animal is and try to incorporate that into the session.
For example, if your child loves bunnies, show them Hare Pose. Or if they love frogs, try Frog Pose and encourage them to make animal sounds. Remember, don’t take it too seriously or they’ll lose interest. Keep it focused, but keep it fun.
3. Encourage creativity and use of their imaginations.
For Bound Angle pose, per the above, refer to it by its animal name - Butterfly pose. Have your kids flap their wings and tell you what colour their butterfly is today. It’s a perfect way to encourage present moment living.
If you’re in Tree pose, tell a story about the wind blowing through their branches. Sway back and forth. Make the noise of the wind in the trees. If you’re moving through Cat and Cow with the breath, do it with the noises. Moo in cow, meow in cat. Let your imagination run wild!
4. Don't be afraid to hand over the reins.
Give the kids a chance to lead the group in their favourite yoga pose. Perhaps your daughter loves flamingos. Encourage her to think about how she could make that shape with her body, and then teach the rest of the group.
Even if it it isn’t a traditional yoga pose, go with it! This cultivates leadership skills, self-confidence and thinking outside the square.
5. Always practice Savasana.
Kids move a mile a minute all day long. Their attention spans are shorter than adults (as anyone with kids will tell you!) and they love to go, go, go. It’s rare to get a few moments of silence or a non-moving body, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need it.
First thing to remember with Savasana for kiddos is to check your expectations at the door. Keep it short - any amount of Savasana is a great amount of Savasana!
Second thing to remember is to keep them interested. Tell a story or a type of guided meditation while in Savasana. You could guide them to imagine a beautiful beach, the colour of the water, the sand castles you built, the fish you saw snorkeling, etc.
Or you could also guide them to imagine something totally new. Don’t get too caught up on them remaining completely still. Again, let go of expectations of what it should be and accept it for what it is.
Another option for Savasana to build body awareness, is to guide them to picture a fairy sprinkling pixie dust on their hair, then their heads, the space between their eyebrows, their noses and so on...all the way to their toes. If you have boys that like spiders and insects, perhaps have them picture one creeping and crawling from their head to their toes.
These are just a few of our favourite tips to introduce yoga to your kids. We’d love to hear what you think, or what works well for your kids in the comments below.