Yoga for Kids

Starting Young: 5 Reasons Why Kids Should Be Doing Yoga

I was an active kid. I grew up playing a lot of sports that I adored, but what has stuck with me the most, are the vivid memories I have of my dad taking me to his favorite yoga class, led by a local Swami. I didn't really know what yoga was, but I loved how easy it came to me, how quiet the practice was, and how calm I felt after savasana, or in my kid brain, "glorified nap time." There was a general ease and peace that I didn't have words for at the time, but after years of teaching and studying yoga, I have a much better understanding of what was happening in that room. I was gaining lifelong tools that promoted confidence, self-care, self-inquiry, and a general sense of inner peace.

I often see students come to their mat for the first-time, later in life, due to a suggestion from a medical professional, usually for an injury. It is never too late to pick up your yoga mat, but I often find myself wondering how incredible it would be to be able to share yoga with kids, as a way to instill healthy breathing, movement, and thought patterns for a life of happiness and balance.

 

Here are the 5 reasons I think all kids should be doing yoga.

  1. 1. Healthy Breath. Children naturally breathe using their diaphragms. Unfortunately, the stress of adult life shifts us into unhealthy shallow chest breath. Teaching kids the importance of maintaining healthy breath patterns can have a lasting lifelong effect of less stress, healthier bodies, and more alert minds. There is a saying that goes, "Where the mind goes, energy flows." When we are breathing with ease, our bodies naturally relax.

 

  1. 2. Healthy Body. A body in motion stays in motion. Teaching kids at a young age how important the balance of movement, flexibility, and strength are can have a lasting impact on their lives. One of the things I love most about yoga is that you see people of all ages and backgrounds practicing. This is a sustainable practice that is gentle on the joints and can be adapted for the rest of one's life.

 

  1. 3. Connection and Community. One of the original tenets of yoga is "ahimsa," which means "do no harm to yourself or others." Yoga is a nonviolent practice, that gives a child inner resources and tools to lessen stress, but also encourages connecting with others in a positive, nonviolent way. The word "yoga" means "union" and the practice encourages us to see ourselves in others and seek ways to make the world a better place.

 

  1. 4. Self-care. Understanding the importance of taking care of oneself at a young age is crucial for a balanced life. One of my former students takes it upon herself to go to her room when she gets stressed out and meditates until her breath normalizes. She's 12 and already has tools to deal with the stressors in her life. When a child has tools to handle his or her daily stressors or frustrations, empowerment and confidence build.

 

  1. 5. Inner Resources. Childhood, especially adolescence, can be a time of shifting identities, with a lot of influence from peers. Yoga has taught me so much about myself and has instilled a sense of inner confidence. As a child, yoga gave me the time and space to explore who I am, what I like, where my limitations are, etc. Because of the reflective nature of yoga, kids have the opportunity to turn inward and learn about themselves, creating more confident, self-assured adults in the long run.

Join Meghan Foley for our "Becoming a Yogi" Series beginning January 7th. It is a great way for kids ages 9-12 to explore yoga and its benefits. Learn more here.

Meghan Foley is a 500 hour Advanced Teacher of Therapeutic Yoga, with extensive training in Yoga Therapy, Yin Yoga, Prenatal Yoga and Power Yoga. She loves sharing yoga with kids, particularly teenagers, because she believes this to be a crucial time in children's lives that can be impacted positively with yoga tools.

10 Tips for Teaching Yoga to Toddlers

Teaching toddlers can be a lot of fun AND very challenging. Just what is appropriate for these youngest of Yoga students?

I just started another six-week session called Toddler Time Yoga yesterday. Many kids who have attended previous sessions were there, along with several new moms and kids. The kids who had attended previously knew me and our class routine.  The new kids, and new moms were at times overwhelmed.  I, along with other experienced moms, assured them that their child's free-style behavior was just fine for class and that they too would learn the routine and structure while making new friends and having fun. 

Teaching toddlers is a blast because they are full-on. You know when they are happy – squealing with delight, and when they are sad – on the floor with arms flailing and tears flowing.  It's like they are "Life Force" coming out of a fire hose.  I've tried many different techniques and refined a structure over the years that is engaging and fun for them, while keeping parents sane.

People often ask for suggestions for teaching Yoga to this very young age group so I’ve compiled a list that can help you get toddlers into Yoga.

Ten Tips for Teaching Toddlers:

1) Provide structure– At this age everything is new, so by providing some predictability, toddlers can relax and enjoy knowing what’s next.

2) Include the parents– Parents practice along to model the practice.  It gives them a chance to have fun and relax too!

3) Surprise and delight with props– This is one thing that makes teaching this age range so much fun. They are thrilled by so much. Give them scarves to run around with while you play a dance song = sheer joy.

4) Manage your expectations– Both teachers and parents will have a lot more fun if it is understood where a 2.5 year old is at developmentally. Sitting still and paying attention are skills yet to be developed.

5) Play music– There are thousands of great bands catering to the toddler set. The music is peppy and often involves lyrics that direct the little ones how to move.  One of my most used songs is Airplane Song by The Laurie Berkener Band.

6) Use storybooks– Storybooks include characters that can be turned into yoga poses. The images are engaging and it keeps the class moving along.

7) Promote a language-rich environment– Language acquisition is a major developmental endeavor at this age so expose them to both written and spoken words and letter recognition. For example, a class about the letter T.

8) Allow space for their big emotions– The happiest kid in my class yesterday was also the most upset. It’s not until kids are 4 or 5 that they are able to start reigning in emotions.

9) Be a source of steadiness and calm– Your presence has a huge impact on the kids. Both the parents and the kids are looking to you for direction as well as a sense of the energy level. When you are even-keeled, your class will be too.

10) Have fun! Don’t worry too much about proper alignment or even getting all the way through the book. These kids are socializing, turn-taking, talking, getting in lots of gross motor movement and having fun. Relax and join them in the fun!

Want to learn all the tips and tricks for teaching yoga to Toddlers? Join Mira Binzen for her professional training, "Teaching Yoga to Toddlers", February 4th at Blooma. Interested in teaching to the whole family? She will also be leading "Teaching Yoga to Families", February 5th.

mira

Mira Binzen has a degree in child psychology and is a certified Yoga and iRest® Yoga Nidra teacher, Yoga therapist, and co-founder of Global Family Yoga (globalfamilyyoga.com), a teacher-training program based in Chicago, focused on children and families.