Imagine if you could give your kids the gift of yoga!
Kids could develop a tool bag of emotional resilience, acceptance, relaxation and control. Then there’s the benefits of strength, co-ordination, balance and flexibility.
But, if you’ve ever rolled out a mat at home and tried to take your child through a yoga practice, you probably found that it didn’t go quite as planned.
I’m the lucky mum of two little yogis that I love doing yoga with. Before they arrived though I taught yoga to kids of varying ages… and with varying success! I learned very quickly that what works for adults won’t hold the focus and attention of a child or make them want to practice any yoga ever again.
So how do you instil a love of yoga in a child? Here are my top five tips.
1. Take them to a specialised Kid’s Yoga class.
There are so many wonderful teachers who have specialised in teaching yoga to children of varying ages. They may learn to focus their breath by controlling the movement of ping pong balls blowing through straws, they might make down dog tunnels so they are developing asana and working together, or they might lie down on their mats for a relaxation story. Don’t be surprised to hear a lot of laughter and movement though if you’re waiting outside to pick up a child!
2. Practice what you preach.
When I practice at home, I roll out two yoga mats (even if I’m the only one out of bed of a morning, or if the kids are home and busy doing something else). When I practice, the kids know they’re more than welcome to jump on the mat next to me and do as much or as little yoga as they like. More often than not, they come for a few postures, drift off, and come back for another few. But, they see me practicing. I feel that they see this as the norm and are more likely to give yoga time in their life as they get older.
3. Tell a story.
A beautiful way of introducing children to yoga is by applying movement in the form of asana to a story you are telling. You could be walking through a forest and looking at trees in this shape and that shape (matching the asana you’re doing) and then lying down for a much needed rest at the end. You could be on a train journey or a spaceship flying into outer space!
4. Change your idea of a yoga practice.
A yoga practice with kids isn’t always an asana practice that goes for a set period of time. A yoga practice can be integrated into anything they do on a daily basis. You can ask them what their dinner tastes like to encourage mindfulness or ask them what they are feeling in their mouth when they brush their teeth. You can play a game and ask them to listen for a few moments and then tell you five things they can hear (or smell, feel, or see) to encourage awareness. You can tuck them into bed at night and offer to tell them a story. My kids love it when I lie down with them and say, ‘take a deep breath… pop everything that’s happened today into a big bubble…and when we breathe out, blow that bubble away. Now you can relax while I tell you a story.’
5. Good Morning Sun!
I wrote this poem to teach Surya Namaskar A to kids. All these years later, I’m still doing it for my kids. When I did my yoga teacher training I was taught that you practice every day; but that if all you can do is a sun salute for whatever reason, you’ve still practiced yoga that day. I feel the same way with my kids. If they join me for a sun salute, then they’ve practiced yoga. I hope your kids love this sun salute poem as much as my kids do!
Good Morning Sun!
(Start in Mountain Pose)
Good Morning Sun (Inhale bringing arms up overhead)
Hello toes (Exhale – fold over bringing hands towards the floor to look at toes)
Wake up nose! (Inhale – look up to your nose)
Watch me jump and lie down flat (Exhale – jump back and slowly lower yourself to the floor)
Have a little nap. (Place hands under head as if going to sleep, then do a big yawn)
Stretch my belly (Inhale to updog)
Stretch my back (Exhale to downdog)
I feel amazing! (Inhale jumping forward to land on feet)
And I’m ready for today. (Exhale folding over to look at toes followed by inhaling to bring arms up overhead and back to mountain pose.)