Kids age seven to nine are rapidly growing, free of the developmental and physical limitations that much younger children experience, and possess increased body awareness. To help them make yoga a more conscious practice, here are some tips for engaging this age group during yoga class.
1. Know that anything is possible.
They can do anything and everything, and probably better than us! They have all the motor skills, coordination, and balance to do all sorts of yoga poses and sequences; you just need to start from where they are and take them farther step-by-step.
2. Keep in mind that everyone is different.
Within this age group, you start seeing more differences in flexibility and strength, so give easier and more challenging options for the same pose so everyone will feel successful. Some can do Turtle Pose as a simple Forward Bend, for instance, while others will be able to do a more acrobatic variation of it.
Always start with the simpler pose and work your way up to more challenging ones. Show your own limitations as a teacher so the kids feel more comfortable with theirs. “When I try to do King Cobra Pose, my head is a couple of miles away from my feet. But hey! I can do a Side Crow in Lotus!”
Emphasize that it is amazingly wonderful that we are all different and that we have the opportunity to shine at different things. The world would be boring if we were all the same!
3. Draw more focus to the breath.
Children ages seven and up have much more breath awareness than littler ones! Start doing more breathing exercises, and guide them in breathing more deeply while in poses and in between. Teach them how to breathe to the abdomen with the Yogic Diaphragmatic Breath.
4. Don’t be childish.
These are big kids, and they start to feel uncomfortable with childish things. So the class is not as silly…just sometimes! Fewer songs and no dolls, but you can still go on yoga journeys.
Gradually progress more to classes that are structured around a concrete concept or topic such as strength, being upside-down, friendship, communication, trust, and so forth. When doing a yoga class with a concept, everything you do in that class will support that main concept.
5. Give them mini yoga pose workshops.
Children ages seven to nine are open and ready to learn. Their body awareness is quickly growing, so you can take the time to teach them how to do yoga poses better.
The best way to help them evolve in the poses is “Yoga Workshop”—a 5-minute period within the class that is a bit more serious (as the rest of the class totally amazing crazy fun!). In those few minutes they learn:
- How to go into and out of the pose
- How to do the pose better
- Variations in the pose
- How to do the pose in pairs and in a group
- The benefits of the yoga pose for their body and their mind
6. Increase and expand your verbal cues.
Use more specific verbal cues in your instructions and have the kids have a go at instructing too! One exciting way to do it is through “Yoga Sculptor.” Here’s how it goes:
- One partner is a lump of clay resting in Child’s Pose, while the other is a sculptor who starts by kneading the clay (massage). The sculptor then proceeds to sculpt the clay into Tree Pose for example… but the clay doesn’t know what they’ll be sculpted into.
- In this variation of the game, the sculpting is done by giving verbal instructions such as “sit up, sit to the side on your left bum cheek, move your right leg forward, shift your weight to your right foot.” It is a rare occasion when the clay actually ends up in the pose intended, which makes it even more fun!
- You can also use positive affirmations while in the poses, having the kids say aloud or in their minds that the pose is making them flexible or strong or peaceful or happy.
7. Keep it creative.
Work with the children’s imagination and creative spirit. Let them create and teach their newly invented Sun Dance to the whole group, or let them explore new ways to do poses in pairs and groups and perform it in front of everyone.
We are in the 21st century, so put some technology into action! Have the group create an amazing group yoga sequence, yoga movie, or theatre-show. Film it on your phone, show it to them in class, and post it on your next newsletter or your Facebook group. Let them be proud of their creation!
Practice more challenging poses and games with them, but keep the class fun and mischievous. Focus on coordination and balance, and hold the poses a bit longer. Encourage group cooperation through group and partner poses and games.
This age group loves challenges, and they will always want to show you how well they practice. Make sure you notice, and praise them for their specific achievements. Let yourself be amazed by them!