about kids' yoga * founder * how it works * benefits for kids * faqs * yoga overview * history of yoga
How does yoga for children work? Babies (from 6 weeks) are one-on-one with a parent, and toddlers sit in a circle and move around the room a lot (best with parents too). Children five to ten years can practice together, usually for 45 minutes around a themed-class (like circus or outer space), incorporating more challenge, as they get older. Yoga for preteens adds complexity, anatomy, body awareness and meditation, with themes like confidence or compassion. Teens can mostly practice like adults, with a few modifications and fabulous exercises to help cope with hormonal/life changes.
Kids’ poses are mostly the same as in adult yoga, with modifications so they are developmentally appropriate. But classes are more dynamic then adult yoga classes, incorporating songs, toys and games to keep the children engaged. Kids play at yoga, just like they play to learn everything else, which gives them many benefits, including easing them into adult yoga as they grow. So, what goes on in a kids’ yoga class?
First, yoga gives children a chance to explore being in the body and notice their breath. They discover the spectrum of amazing things we can do… stretch, jump, be quiet/loud, balance, twist, bend, rest, be alone and in a group, focus, get strong and flexible, sing, play and be upside down. A child can come into the class tired, frustrated, hot, hyperactive and – wherever they are – yoga practice begins. Yoga gives them the gift of joy and discovery of being vitally alive. They notice and connect with their breath, which is their life!
Second, yoga is non-competitive. Unlike sports, learning an instrument or playing video games, yoga does not encourage competition, nor does it put pressure on children to do more, do better, or go faster. During yoga, kids notice how their own bodies move. It’s fun as they try different poses, developing self-awareness and recognition of the their strengths and where they can improve – without self-judgment or comparison. Yoga is a great way to build children’s confidence and to teach the value of committed practice. Yoga’s positive reinforcement provides a framework for them to see positive shifts, without the pressure of needing to change.
Finally, yoga gives children a chance to be mindful, get perspective and rest. Most of us in our busy lives in the modern world are over-stimulated a lot of the time. Noise, crowds, carrying heavy bags, working on computers, being in cars, having to rush to get places, not eating so well, pollution, too much television, pressure to do better – all tax our nervous systems. Kids are no different! On the spectrum of quiet relaxation to fight-and-flight response, our nervous systems tend to be more on the stressed side most of the time. Constant stress increases heart rate, blood flow, breathing and brain activity. It raises the production of cortisol and other hormones in the body, which in a true danger situation is good, but over time consistently drains and stresses the body and mind, taxing our nervous systems and likely decreasing immunity. Yoga practice brings us to a more balanced state.
So, in class, after your daughter or son practices poses, laughs and discovers new things about their bodies, there is relaxation. A time of lying down gives an experience of the enjoyment and relief of quiet restfulness, stimulating the calming parasympathetic nervous system. In addition to helping you feel wonderful, relaxation renews balance in the body systems and mind. It teaches children the value of quietly breathing and to focus on what is going on with them, versus what the world asks them to focus on. Believe it or not, kids, even super-active ones, love this! Relaxation and yoga breathwork give kids time to focus on our bodies in the present and perspective that allows us to calm down in moments of upset or when we are overtaxed.
What else should you tell children about yoga? That class starts with sitting in a circle, maybe a name game, listening to a bell, breathing or singing, then we do stretches and poses to warm up, a series of poses around a theme (like rainforest or strength). At the end is a nice relaxation with soft music or guided visualization (like walking on a beach and seeing starfish). They might even get a foot massage. Class can also include non-competitive yoga games, short meditations or chants, artwork or a chance for them to teach a pose to their peers. Nearly all types of kids love yoga and can do yoga. Ideally, all children of all ages have the opportunity to experience this gift of yoga as well as the health, balance and radiance it brings to their lives now and in the future.
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