Kids are natural yogis. They love it, and their little bodies are still working the way they were designed to work, free from the smartphone-inspired chin-down posture, and the desk-inspired slouched shoulders.
They still lift with their legs in perfect squat form. They still breathe deeply and fully.
What a gift it is to get them started with a yoga practice that will serve them throughout their lives.
Whether you do yoga or not, I hope you encourage the children in your life to pursue it. Of course, that’s easier to do if you do yoga, too. You don’t have to be a teacher or an expert to get your kids interested in yoga. Even the fact that you regularly go to class will help inspire them, and if they see you doing your own practice at home or along with a yoga video, they’ll be encouraged to do it, too.
I used to teach yoga to the kids when I was a nanny, and I’ve done lots of yoga with my three nephews. (Yep, even the not-yet-two-year-old.) I also taught a yoga class for kids when I lived in Denver. (There are special children’s yoga certifications you can get if you’re a yoga teacher and really want to get into it.) Here are a few things you can do to help your kids do yoga:
No Time Restrictions
Never force them to do yoga. You want to make sure it’s always a positive experience, not a chore, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a kid who will do an entire hour. Let them do as much as they want. When they lose interest, thank them for having so much yoga fun with you and move on to something else. (Or finish your personal practice and let them move on to something else.)
Keep It Fun
Use the fun English names for poses and create stories that link one pose to the next. Introduce them to chanting: they have no preconceived notions or fears, they’re not afraid of what they sound like; my nephews love to OM.
Use Cards or Games
I received these yoga cards a while back in exchange for my review, and my nephews loved them. There’s an actual game you can play with them, but my nephews just like me to pull one from the stack, and then they try to do it.
If we’re using the cards and doing triangle, for example, my nephews have a tendency to deeply bend the front leg at first. I say simply, “Ohhh, wait, look how her front leg is straight in the picture!” and they fix it. I correct them very rarely, just enough to keep them on the right track. Even though their alignment is naturally excellent, they don’t have a lot of body awareness yet; it’s perfectly likely that they’re not at all aware their knees are bent until you point it out. Just make sure the corrections are fun, not shaming, and not about “doing it better.”
Keep Yoga in the Conversation
I point out yoga-like things whenever I get an opportunity. When they start to get worked up about something, I encourage them to take deep breaths, “like we do in yoga.” If there’s a shape we see in nature that looks like a yoga pose, or when an animal does something that has a pose named after it, I say, “Look, the cat’s doing cat pose!”
Give Them a Mat
You can get very inexpensive mats (under $10) at stores like Ross or T.J. Maxx, and sometimes they pop up inexpensively on Amazon. My nephews love their mats, and they’re very good about only using them for yoga. It makes their yoga time that much more special.
Do you do yoga with your kids? Tell me about it!