By Denise Cooper RYT 200
Yoga for kids is truly a magical combination. As a retired school teacher, and yoga enthusiast, I thought it only natural to want to share this beautiful practice with my students. The best part is that children take to yoga like ducks to water.
Providing children with yoga instruction is a gift that can actually last a lifetime. Early in my own practice of yoga, I was amazed as I witnessed my first-grade children naturally sitting in poses that I was struggling to learn as an adult. I also learned that anytime the word “yoga” was spoken, an entire class would touch their pointer finger to their thumb, close their eyes, and say “hmmmmm”. Their interest and bits of yoga knowledge inspired me to begin to learn all I could about children’s yoga, and to teach yoga to children at any given chance.
There are as many different ways of teaching children’s yoga as there are children’s yoga teachers. There are opportunities galore for different training, different products, and different philosophies of the best ways to teach the ancient yoga practices to children. I am using the word “children” broadly – meaning any person that has not yet reached adulthood. There are good ways to teach yoga for any age, but it has been found that as with all teaching, the needs, interests, and abilities of children come in stages that we can best fit with their ages. Teaching yoga to a preschooler will be much different to teaching yoga to a seventh grader.
In teaching older children, perhaps from ages 11-13, the practice is more sophisticated, and more closely resembles an adult practice. They can learn vinyasas, and settle in for a good Savasana. Yoga students in this age group enjoy the challenges of partner poses and poses that challenge their balance. Group poses, such as connecting a circle of 8-10 students for a group tree pose, challenge their skills and provide a sense of unity that they enjoy at that age. After learning the basics of yoga, this age group loves to almost run their own class by getting to choose poses or draw cards with the poses written on them. It fits their need to not always be told what to do and helps them feel that it is their yoga class. This age group is blessed with flexibility and can usually outdo their teacher in any balance or partner pose.
Children in the 8-11 range like a mixture of teacher-led and student-led activities. I have found that decks of yoga cards are amazing for this age group. There are dozens of these cards available, and as a teacher, you can certainly choose what poses you want to include in the day’s practice, but let the students choose the order by drawing or flipping over the card. This age group is also extremely flexible and will want time in the practice to show what they can do. This group will also enjoy themed yoga sessions – based on the season (Halloween is really fun) or a chosen theme (like pirates or mountain climbers).
Younger children, from preschool to age seven, are also natural yogis. They know no fear, and their flexibility and energy come naturally. This age group is best served with yoga games, yoga books, and yoga songs. These are readily available – and worth exploring to find your favorites. This age group also likes themed lessons – associated with holidays or topics that young children love. Anything from pirates (it’s okay to make pirate names for poses) to valentines, to finding Easter eggs with poses inside works like magic.
All ages of children thrive on ending their yoga practice with Savasana. A cool, lavender scented washrag is worth its weight in gold – and they will not tolerate your forgetting them!
So, whatever your role with children – you can fit in some yoga. From afternoon classes, to fitting five-minute yoga breaks into a classroom situation, to teaching in a studio – you will find that yoga and children is a magical combination. Worth the work and the effort to teach them a healthy habit that can serve them for a lifetime.
If you have any questions, please, don’t hesitate to call the studio at any time. We will be happy to help! If you would like more information or would like to sign up to stay in the loop about all things Yoga for Kids happening here at Thrive Yoga and Wellness, check out our page at http://www.thriveyogaandwellness.com/contact-us