How to Teach Kids Yoga

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Mom and child doing a yoga pose.

If your yoga practice has ever been interrupted by a curious child, you might want to find ways to make your yoga sessions a family affair. We’re here to help. Introducing a child to yoga isn’t hard to do, and is well worth the effort. Research suggests that yoga promotes physical and mental well-being. Yoga can help kids deal with stress and learn to regulate their emotions, among other benefits.

What’s the key to getting kids interested in yoga? Make it a game. In this article, we’ll show you how to get started and introduce you to several easy poses. Once your kids can do those poses, bring on the yoga games anchor link to keep it fun and playful.

 

How to Start Kids on Yoga

woman and child in a warrior yoga pose

When should kids start yoga? While many infants have shown the ability to do a perfect Happy Baby Pose, age 4 (and above) is typically when a child is ready to start a playful practice. And while the playful approach of games may turn off tweens and teens, yogic breathing exercises remain great tools for calming anxieties that older kids may experience on their journeys to adulthood.

What gear do you need? You don’t need any fancy gear, clothing or a special location to start practicing yoga. If you and the kids decide to practice more regularly, you can consider getting yoga gear like mats and other props.

What do you wear? Have kids wear comfortable clothes they can move in and be upside down in.

Where should you do yoga? Find any spot where you have room to stretch out, whether indoors or out. Don’t have much space? That’s OK. You can even do some yoga poses and breathing exercises in bed. It’s also a good idea to minimize distractions: Turn the TV off and close the door.

What should you watch out for? Kids tend to be more flexible than adults and they can often get into complex poses that we only wish we could do. Remind them that if something ever hurts, they should stop. That’s part of developing an awareness of their bodies and using that knowledge to guide their practice.

How can you encourage kids to do it? Weave yoga into a routine as best as you can. For example, encourage your kids to do one of the breathing exercises as they get ready for bed. The more often they do it, the more it becomes a habit later on in life. It doesn’t have to be formal. It could be just a few moments to breathe deeply.

 

Yoga Poses for Kids

woman and child in cat cow yoga pose

Remember, it’s OK if kids don’t do the poses perfectly. It’s about having fun and moving their bodies.

 

Tree Pose (Vrikshasana)

This standing pose incorporates balance and coordination and helps you and your child work on improving concentration.

  1. Stand on one foot.
  2. Bring the other foot to the inside of your ankle, calf or thigh.
  3. Reach your arms up to the sky like tree branches.
  4. Stand up tall like a tree and feel your roots growing into the ground.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

 

Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

This is a foundational yoga pose that helps increase energy and focus and works on stretching the back of the legs.

  1. Come into a table top pose (with your hands and knees on the floor).
  2. Curl your toes under, straighten your legs and lift your hips up to the sky.
  3. Bark like a dog.
  4. Option: Try lifting each leg up, one at a time, for three-legged dog pose.

 

Cat/Cow Pose

This pose helps to stretch the spine and belly. It can also help with linking body movement to breath.

  1. Come into table pose with your hands and knees on the floor.
  2. Drop your belly, look up to the sky and moo like a cow.
  3. Arch your back like a Halloween cat, bring your chin to your chest; meow like a cat.
  4. Repeat cat and cow as many times as you like (or 5 times).

 

Eagle Pose: (Garudasana)

This is good for concentration, coordination and balance; it also helps open up the joints in the body.

  1. Balance on the left foot.
  2. Bring the right leg over top of the left leg and squeeze your legs together.
    (Your right foot can be on the ground for balance, hovering off the ground, or you can hook it around the calf for a double wrap.)
  3. Reach your arms out to the sides. Then swing your arms forward with your right arm underneath your left arm; hook at the elbows and give yourself a hug.
  4. Continuing to balance on the left foot, bend your knees and squat down a bit.
  5. When ready to release your pose, flap your arms to the sides like an eagle.
  6. Repeat on the opposite leg.

 

Warrior II Pose (Virabhadrasana II)

This one is good for building confidence and can help to strengthen the legs and core while opening up the hips.

  1. Stand with your feet wide apart and stretch your arms out to the sides like a T, with palms facing down.
  2. Turn the right foot out and bend the right knee.
  3. Look over the right hand.
  4. Stand tall and strong like a warrior.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Have kids try this fun way to come out of the pose: With both legs straight and arms out wide, they can jump up, swinging their arms together and reaching their arms overhead.

Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)

This is a nice relaxing pose that stretches the hips and spine. It also can be silly. You and your kids can giggle or say “goo-goo gaga.”

  1. Lie on your backs, bend your knees and grab on to your feet.
  2. Rock side to side like a happy baby.

Yoga Games and Breathing Exercises for Kids

Kids have short attention spans, so rather than doing a long class, try incorporating the above yoga poses and breathing exercises into games. Also, if something isn’t working, move on to the next thing.

Freeze Dance Yoga: Let your child pick a song to dance to—something upbeat and fun (such as Kidz Bop). Dance it out and then stop the song at random; everybody who is playing rushes to get into a yoga pose. If you have several kids playing, you could do it as an elimination round, though you can also just keep going; it doesn’t have to be competitive.

Teacher Twist: Give the kids pictures of the poses and let them be the teacher. Having them show you how to do the poses helps kids build confidence.

Yogi Says: One person is the yogi (aka “Simon”). They decide the yoga pose and call it out. When they say, “Yogi says,” everyone gets into that pose. If someone does it without the Yogi saying that phrase, have them do a pushup for a little extra strength training. Or the kids playing can come up with their own consequence.

Breathing Exercises For Calming

Belly Breathing: This breathing technique helps relieve stress, worry and anxiety, especially before bed.

  1. Put a stuffed animal on your child’s belly. As they breathe in, the stuffed animal rises with their belly. When they breathe out, the stuffed animal falls.
  2. Do this 5 times.

Bumblebee Breath: Vibration can be very calming and soothing. You can do this exercise seated or lying down.

  1. Tell your child to take a slow breath in through their nose. Count to 4.
  2. Have your child exhale, with lips closed while making a humming sound like a bumblebee. (It’s like the end of the “ohm” sound: “Hmmm.” 
  3. Option: Have your child put their fingers in their ears; this creates a more internal sensation.
  4. Do this 5 times or repeat it as many times as you like.

 


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Contributing Experts

Ali Bullano

Ali Bullano is a social worker who teaches yoga in Denver. She specializes in helping adults and children cope with stress and anxiety through coaching, counseling and mindfulness practices. She loves to explore Colorado hiking trails.