Yoga for Kids

Unlike adults who have different “adult” reasons that bring them to the mat such as relieving stress, losing weight or managing a health condition, kids come to the mat to play and have fun.

As early as 2 years of age, your child is ready to practice yoga. Children are natural yogis and yoginis as they live in the moment, and are innately flexible.

Yoga for kids is a great opportunity to teach your kids stillness, body awareness, and self love. It also helps to promote overall health and emotional intelligence.

You may enroll your child to a nearby kids’ yoga class, hire a private yoga instructor for them, or if you are an experienced yogi you can prepare a session for them.

Benefits of yoga for kids

  1.         Promotes physical development

Doing yoga promotes fine and gross motor skills, development of muscles, improves eye-hand coordination, visual processing, and auditory processing in kids. The various poses promote proper structural alignment of spine. The breathing exercises promote respiratory health. It enables kids to retain their flexibility and agility as they grow older.

  1.         Promotes emotional intelligence

Yoga cultivates a sense of self awareness among kids.  Since yoga is a non-competitive exercise, it modifies the kids’ need to compete and teaches them self love and self acceptance. It also Instills values such as compassion, patience, cooperation, and focus among others

In addition, serves as an outlet for impulsive energy. Like adults, kids too get stressed out. They experience pressure from the fast-paced life, school activities and deadlines, and social anxieties among others. Yoga helps them to get their minds away from stress and to relax their nervous system. As a result, they feel calmer, are happier and sleep better.

  1.         Promotes mental health.

Research has shown that practicing yoga promotes brain development. In kids, it promotes communication between the right and left brain hemispheres therefore promoting both critical thinking and creativity.

  1.         Teaches them about the environment

Many yoga poses are named after animals such as lizard pose, downward facing dog, frog pose, butterfly pose among others. There are others named after objects in the environments such as airplane pose, table top pose, chair pose etc. As the kids practice and call out the names of the poses, the become better acquainted with their surroundings.

Tips for preparing a yoga for kids session.

Whether you are a yoga for kids teacher looking for ideas to improve your teaching skills, or a yogi parent looking for ideas to introduce your child to yoga, below are a few tips to guide you through creating a yoga session for kids.

  1.         Tips for sequencing a kids’ yoga class.

Each yoga for kids session should incorporate a warm up, build up, cool down and relaxation.

The warm up could be a few breathing exercises, a short meditation and easy-to-do yoga poses to encourage the child to settle down and focus. It also warms up the body and increases oxygen flow throughout the child’s body.

The build up of the session incorporates the traditional yoga asana including standing poses, lying poses and seated poses. It is more playful and fun. The cool down comes towards the end of the session. It begins to quieten the body and mind to allow the child to go into relaxation at the end of the session.

A relaxation segment is important at the end of every kids’ yoga session because at this point the body is tired. It takes away tension, calms the mind, relaxes the body, and balances the body’s energy. Simple relaxation exercises include breathing exercises, a guided visualization, foot rub or guided meditation.

  1.         Key elements of a yoga for kids session

Aside from the traditional yoga poses, incorporate breathing exercises, relaxation techniques and meditation in a kids’ yoga session.

  1.         Make the class more engaging

Unlike adults, kids have a short attention span. Therefore, you need to make deliberate effort to keep them engaged throughout the session.  Make the poses playful and fun. You may incorporate songs, music and storytelling. Integrate fun breathing exercise within poses and throughout the practice. You may also bring props in to the session such as art pieces and books.

Bring drawing books and crayons for them to draw the various objects and animals mentioned as poses.  You may plan a themed class e.g “A trip to the zoo” and incorporate yoga poses with names of animals you might see at the zoo.

Ask them questions or introduce learning points in a pose. For instance, when doing the down dog, ask them if they have a dog for a pet. What is the name of their dog? How does a dog bark? What do dogs eat? What do well call a “pet doctor”? among others.

A fun way to incorporate breathing exercises is to bring a breathing ball. Tell them to breath in when the ball expands and to breath out when it contracts. You may also ask them to roar like a lion or pant like a dog.

  1.         Teaching techniques vary depending on the child’s age

For instance, kids aged 2-4 are at a different developmental stage than kid’s aged 8-11. The 2-4 year olds are learning how to communicate so it would be ideal to incorporate simple songs, ask them to repeat the names of the poses, or show them images of the various animals and items mentioned as poses. They have a shorter attention span therefore the session should be shorter, say 20-30 minutes.

On the other hand, older kids are stronger, more conversant with their environment and have a longer concentration spun. Therefore, you may incorporate a critical discussion about the benefits of yoga in the session. You may hold them in the poses for longer and make the session longer, say 30-45 minutes.

  1.         Pay attention to the kids’ safety

Start by creating a safe environment for the kids to practice in. Remove any objects that may cause injuries. Guide the children through the poses emphasizing on key alignment points. While they may not get the ideal alignment, look out for misalignments that may cause injuries.

Meditation for kids

Many people when they hear of meditation they think of an out of body experience. The simplest definition of meditation is becoming present to the present moment. It is about becoming aware of your body, emotions and surroundings in the current moment. It can be a life-transforming practice for children, like is the case for adults. It promotes mental health, emotional well being, and creativity among other benefits.

Below is a sample script for meditation for kids to calm them down and get them ready for a yoga session.

Sit down with your legs crossed, spine and neck tall.

Close your eyes and bring your attention to your chest.

Notice as your chest rises and falls as you breath in and out.

Pay attention to the rise and fall of your belly as your inhale and exhale.

Listen to any sounds in the room.

Pay attention to any smell in the room.

Feel the contact between your body and the ground.

Take a deep breath in

and deep breath out. Gently open your eyes.

13 yoga poses for kids

Please note that the kids’ yoga poses names are not necessarily similar to those of the traditional yoga asana. They have been adapted in a way that makes sense for the kids. Below are 13 kids-friendly yoga poses. I have incorporated some ideas for making each pose engaging and interesting for the kids.

1.         Lizard Pose

While for most adults this pose can be somewhat challenging because of tight hips, kids are limber and will easily get into the pose. It strengthens the thigh muscles, and opens the chest and hips.


Lizard Pose

How to do it:

  1. Come to your fours in a table top position.
  2. Drop your elbows to the ground, under your shoulders and press your palms down.
  3. Step your left foot to the outside of the left elbow.
  4. Extend the right foot backwards and tuck the toes of your right foot. Keep the right knee on the mat.
  5. Gaze at the space between your hands.
  6. Hold for 3 breaths.
  7. Switch sides.

Fun Tip

Ask the kids to imagine that they are hungry lizards looking for mosquitoes to eat. Instruct them to look around to see if they can see any insect. To take a deep breath in with the mouth closed, and on the exhale to open their mouth and take their tongue out to catch a mosquito passing nearby.

2.         Dragon Pose

The dragon pose promotes balance and stretches the legs, arms and back.


Dragon Pose

How to do it

  1. Start in downward facing dog.
  2. Step your right foot between your hands.
  3. Drop the left leg to the ground and untuck your toes so that the top of your right foot is resting on the ground.
  4. Keep the right knee bent at a right angle.
  5. Reach your hands up, palms facing each other.
  6. Hold for 3 breaths.
  7. Come back to downward facing dog and switch sides.

Fun Tip

Engage the kids’ imagination by taking them through a guided visualization around a king’s castle that the dragon is guarding. Ask them to identify the things they see in the castle.

A fun way to incorporate breathing exercises would be to ask them to pretend that they are the dragon and to breath fire. Let them take their hands besides the body as the breath out fire and back up as they breath in.  A few rounds of the dragon breathing can help to calm down an angry child.

3.         Frog Pose

The frog pose in kids’ yoga is a bit different from the one in the traditional yoga asana. The kids’ yoga version of frog pose mimics the yogi squat. It opens the hips, releases the back, and strengthens the thigh muscles.


Frog Pose

How to do it

  1. Stand with your feet wider that hip-width apart
  2. Crouch down into a squat.
  3. Drop your hands down, palm spread on the ground.
  4. Keep your legs wide with knees sticking out and up like the legs of a frog.
  5. Hold for 3 breaths.

Fun tip

Most kids enjoy hoping in this pose. You may instruct them to hop in position or from one side of the mat to the other as they repeatedly say “ribbit”. You may also have them dive into the water by straightening their knees and allowing their head to hang downwards into a forward bend. The breathing sequence would be such that they inhale in the squatting position, and exhale as they “dive into the water”.

4.         Bear Pose

The bear pose is a variation of the traditional yoga forward bend that stretches the hamstrings and eases tension off the lower back.


Bear Pose

How to do it

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Place your hands on your waist and hinge forward from the hip joint.
  3. Take your hands to the outside edges of your legs and clasp your calves.
  4. Hang your head downwards.
  5. Hold for 3 breaths.

Fun tip

The Kids can stomp forward like a bear walking through the forest in search of some tasty berries. Ask them to growl like a grumpy bear.

5.         Crescent Moon Pose

Also known as the banana pose, the crescent moon in kids’ yoga is similar to the standing side bend pose in traditional yoga. It stretches the sides of the body and strengthens the back.


Crescent Moon Pose

How to do it

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Reach your hands up high to the sky.
  3. Interlace your fingers or bring your palms to touch.
  4. Bend your body to the left side.
  5. Hold for 3 breaths.
  6. Come back to the center and bend to the right side.
  7. Hold for 3 breaths.
  8. Come back to the center and release your hands beside you.

Fun tip

Either before or after doing the crescent moon pose, is a great opportunity to have an education segment about the moon. Ask the kids when does the moon come out, whether they have ever seen the moon, and allow them to talk freely about their experiences. Talk about the different phases of the moon and the 28-day moon cycle.

6.         Star Pose

The star pose promotes balance, coordination, strength and builds core stability. It also strengthens the legs and stretches the arms.


Star Pose

How to do it

  1. Stand and open your feet wider than hip-with apart.
  2. Spread your hands out to the sides.
  3. Close your mouth and breath in through your nose, open your mouth and breath out through your mouth as you say “aah”.
  4. Repeat for 3-5 times.

Fun tip.

Ask them to sing the “twinkle twinkle little star….” song as they wiggle their fingers and lift the feet off the ground, one at a time.

7.         Easy pose

The easy pose is a great pose to begin a kids’ yoga session with. It is easy to do and a good resting position for doing breathing exercise and meditation to get the kids’ minds still and focused. Besides, it opens the hips and inner thighs, strengthens the back, and stabilizes the spine.


Easy Pose

How to do it

  1. Sit down on the ground with your legs crossed.
  2. Breath in, lengthen your spine and bring your shoulders near your ears.
  3. As you breath out, keep the spine long and drop your shoulders down.
  4. Keep your neck lengthened and head sturdy as if holding a stack of books on top of your head.
  5. Hold for 3-5 breaths.

Fun tip

Instruct the kids through a couple of breathing exercises to center them and prepare them for the session ahead.

8.         Tree Pose

This is a classic yoga asana that is a fun balancing kids’ yoga pose. Kids enjoy the challenge of standing on one leg. It promotes balance, coordination and focus while strengthening the standing leg.


Tree Pose

How to do it

  1. Stand with feet hip width apart.
  2. Lift one foot off the ground and bring the sole to rest on the inner thigh of the standing leg, or on the inner shin below the knee.
  3. Extend your hands up.
  4. Hold for 3 breaths.
  5. Come back to standing on both legs and switch sides.

Fun tip

Ask them to sway their hands from side to side like the branches of a tree in the wind. Or, to imagine that they are trees in the night, and to close their eyes. You can also have them make a forest by holding each others’ hands.

9.         Candle Pose

The candle pose in kids’ yoga is similar to the shoulder stand in classical yoga. It is a calming pose that promotes blood flow to the head while easing tension off the legs and lower back. It also strengthens the shoulders.


Candle Pose

How to do it

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Bend your knees and rest the soles of your feet on the ground.
  3. Lift your lower back and seating bones off the ground as you lift your legs up into the air, balancing on your shoulders and triceps.
  4. Bend your elbows and rest your hands to your lower back.
  5. Look up – do not move your neck side to side.
  6. Hold for 3-5 breaths.

Fun Tip

Ask them to imagine they are flickering candles, and to wiggle their toes.

10.   Flower Pose

The flower pose is a fun modification of the classical butterfly pose. It brings in a balancing element, strengthens the core, eases tension off the lower back and opens the hips.


Flower Pose

How to do it

Sit down into a butterfly pose – soles of your feet touching, knees open to the sides.

Take your hands between your legs and reach for your shins.

Balance on your seating bones and lift your feet a few inches above the ground.

Fun Tip

Ask them to rock back and forth, and side to side on the pose like a flower in the wind.

11.   Downward Facing Dog

The downward facing dog is a yoga stable that offers full-body strengthening and stretching. It opens and stretches the entire posterior side of the body as well as the chest and quadriceps. It is an easy to get into pose for most kids as they do not have tight hamstrings.


Downward Facing Dog

How to do it

  1. Come to your fours, in a table top position.
  2. Spread your fingers and press your palms down.
  3. Tuck your toes and lift your knees off the ground.
  4. Point your pelvis towards the ceiling to make an inverted V-shape.
  5. Drop your head downwards between your shoulders.
  6. Hold for 3-5 breaths.

Fun tip.

There are various variations of the downward facing dog that the kids try out including the three-legged down dog, bending each knee at a time, and walking forward and backwards on the down dog among others. You may also ask the kids to bark like a dog.

12.   Knees-to-chest Pose

Also known as the self-hug pose, the knees-to-chest pose is a great tool for instilling self love in kids during a yoga session.  As the kids wrap their hands around their knees, you may instruct them to affirm; I love myself. The pose also stretches the entire back and massages the abdominal organs promoting digestion and detoxification.


Knee-to-Chest Pose

How to do it

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Bend your knees to your chest.
  3. Wrap your hands around your knees and shins.
  4. Hug yourself tightly as you squeeze your knees to your chest.
  5. Say, “I love myself”.
  6. Hold for 3-5 breaths

Fun tip

Have them rock back and forth on their backs – it offers a gently massage on the back.

13.   Mountain Pose

The mountain pose is an easy pose that offers several benefits including improving posture, centering the body, and opening the shoulders and chest.


Mountain Pose

How to do it

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Reach you hands up, palms facing each other.
  3. Drop your shoulders away from the ears.
  4. Breath for 5 breaths.

Fun tip

Since this is a rather easy pose, focus the kids’ attention to their breathing by guiding them through deep inhales and exhales. You may also have them bring their hands at the heart center in prayer position.

Conclusion

Kids stand to benefit greatly from doing yoga. For them, yoga is another opportunity to play and have fun. They have a short attention span, therefore, you want to keep them engaged throughout the practice.

You may enroll your child to a kids’ yoga class nearby or hire a private kids’ yoga instructor. If you are an experienced yogi or yogini, you can use your knowledge of yoga to create a kid-friendly sequence for your child or invite them to practice with you.

A good place to start is to combine the poses above into a 20-30 minutes’ session. End the session in savasana to enable them to relax and let go any physical as well as emotional tension. Take the necessary measures to ensure their safety as they practice.