• Barbara Newman

Yoga for Kids, too!

(Consult your child’s pediatrician or healthcare provider before starting this yoga program to know if it is right for your child. If your child has pain or difficulty, he/she should stop and you should consult your child’s healthcare provider.)

Kids need yoga as much as adults, but yoga for kids is different. Kids may come to school upset and angry about something that happened at home, on the bus, or on social media and act out in a tough situation. They may be out of focus, not present, and lost to learning for the rest of the day. However, when children are given a safe space to unwind, think about what happened, and breathe, they become aware, letgo, and are given healthy tools to cope.

Imagine having mindful tools at an early age to learn how to deal with stress and anxiety, help center yourself, get balanced, and return to the present moment. These techniques include targeted conversation, breathing exercises, yoga movements, relaxation moments, yoga games, guided reading stories that involve poses, drawing, or listening to music or a story.

The breath is the foundation of yoga and calms the noise, chatter, and waves of the mind. The following are some examples of fun breathing exercises to keep the attention of kids:

Balloon Breath: Lie down or sit. Place your hand or a small toy on your belly. As you inhale, move your belly onto your toy or hand and make your belly into a big balloon. As you exhale, your belly moves in just like letting the air out from a balloon. Repeat a few times.

Sunny Breath: Sit. Inhale your arms up and fingertips touch overhead making a bright sun with a big smile on your face. Exhale your arms down with palms facing down, and bring your arms to your sides. Repeat a few times.

Lion’s Breath: Sit up. Younger children place their hands in front of their chest with fingers curled in like claws. Older children rest their hands on their knees. Inhale through your nose and exhale opening your mouth, stick out your tongue, and let out a roaring lion sound.

Many yoga poses are named after animals, nature, shapes, and objects. The following are some fun examples:

Dog: On your mat place your hands under shoulders and knees on the floor. Lift hips up to the sky with heels toward the floor and looking at knees. Ask, “What does a dog say?”

Kangaroo: Stand on the mat, place your legs, feet and hands together, and hop around. Ask, “How far can you hop? How high can you hop?”

Mountain: Stand on the mat with your legs together and arms at sides. Stand tall like a mountain. Ask, “ What do you see at the top of your mountain?”

Tree: Stand on the mat. Lift up one foot and place it inside the thigh with palms together at heart center. Foot can also be placed inside the ankle or calf but not on the knee. When balanced, raise arms up like branches of a tree. Repeat on the other side. Demonstrate moving your arms side to side and ask, “Can you make your branches sway side to side?”

Triangle: Stand on the mat, open your legs to a V shape and drop down one arm against the thigh or shin and extend the other arm up to the sky. Look up, in front, or down. Repeat on the other side. Ask, “What shape are your legs? A triangle?”

Bridge: Lay down on mat, bend your legs, and place feet flat on the floor. Lift up hips and hold for a few seconds and bring them down again.

Table: On your mat place your hands and knees on the floor hip distance apart. Neck and back are straight and eyes look to the floor. Ask, “Can someone eat a snack on your back?”

Kids yoga is intended to be fun using toys, games, music, and books. There is less concern about alignment and importance is placed on kids having a good time in the present moment. This experience creates the tools for kids to use in their lives.

Relaxation moments are composed of the following:

Lay down or sit in a comfortable easy pose. Kids listen to a guided relaxation story on topics such as a happy heart, shining your light, an enchanted forest where kids imagine themselves in situations to bring happiness and peace into their hearts. They are awake but relaxed. This helps relieve stress and anxiety, improve well-being, and develop a positive attitude at school and home.

Mindful breathing, movements, and relaxation, guide kids to increase their focus, creativity and be open to learning. When they have the chance to stretch out on a mat for fifteen to thirty minutes, they slow down their breath, get rid of the noise and mind chatter, and realize there are other possibilities. They are using breath, movement, and relaxation to calm their minds and bodies.

Kids learn to be present and not let outside influences distract them. Instead of yelling and being physical, they develop new ways to cope. They begin to understand they have the choice to respond by staying centered in challenging situations and not react. The situation is not in charge of them. Rather they are in charge of themselves. Kids learn compassion, balance, peace, empathy, and love.

Children are being taught self-care. Cellular structure even changes in a positive environment. Teachers who bring a yogic breath or movement into the classroom have calmer classes. Children who see their parents practicing a downward dog often want to try the move. Kids go home and teach parents, siblings and friends to breathe out tension and stress. Schools have reported increased attendance and decreased suspensions. Kids are learning a better way to live one day, one breath, and one movement at a time.

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