Kids need yoga just as much as adults. In fact, an increasing amount of research confirms the positive effects of yoga on children. Some schools in the United States and the United Kingdom now incorporate meditation sessions into the school day, leading to improved behavioral and academic performance. Check out this story about the effects one school observed when it replaced detention time with meditation practice.
When a teacher guides children through yoga movements, that adult gives them another tool they can use to explore their own free, creative, and expressive nature. That means practicing yoga with children will require teachers to allow for unlimited creativity and interpretation. The descriptive names of the various poses — such as animal names or objects like bridge and mountain — all provide opportunities to spark a child’s imagination.
Try these seven yoga poses with the kids in your life to encourage their creativity and help them effectively manage stress.
Cat and Cow Pose
Kids love animal-named poses so let them get fully into character. Don’t be surprised if you hear some cow mooing and cat meowing.
- Ask the children to come down onto their hands and knees.
- Next, show them how to drop their bellies and release their shoulders back, alternating then to a rounded back while dropping the crown of their head toward the floor.
- At this point, they may think of and imitate other animals that stand on all fours and move their bodies in similar ways.
- Allow them to do this and, if you feel inspired, join in.
- When you see an opportunity, present the idea of synchronizing breath with movement. Over time, continue returning to this concept and eventually the children will begin to incorporate their breath unconsciously.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, the soles of your feet on the floor, and your arms down by your sides.
- Lift your bum off the floor, pressing your hips up.
- Ask the kids what this pose brings to mind other than a bridge.
- They might think of objects like a ramp or highway overpass and someone may even bring up trolls under their “bridge.”
- Whatever comes up, encourage them to tell stories and even act them out.
Yoga Squat Pose
Most adults practice this pose, which can prove challenging as a deep hip opener, in a quiet and meditative manner. However, squatting takes on a whole new energy in a children’s class.
- Ask the children to squat and then waddle around the room like a duck.
- Alternatively, ask them to imagine they’re monkeys squatting low to the ground.
- What would they then do with their arms?
- What sounds would they like to make?
Rag Doll Forward Fold
- Ask the children to stand with their feet hip-width apart.
- Now have them bend forward at the hips.
- They can hold their elbows in opposite hands and dangle their arms and head toward the floor.
- Encourage them to think of the top half of their bodies as water, flowing like a waterfall down over their hips to the floor.
- Next, ask them to swing their arms from side to side, shake their heads yes and no, and maybe even play a game of imagining something they don’t like, such as broccoli, slipping off their shoulders and out of their minds into the floor.
- Encourage them to shout out any other ideas they have about what other things their forward fold brings to mind.
Extended Mountain Pose
Mountain pose may allow you to make a game of who can be the strongest, tallest, quietest, and most still mountain.
- Start with everyone standing with their feet hip-width apart.
- Ask the children to raise their arms overhead and bring their palms together, keeping their arms straight.
- Guide them through a short meditation that evokes the strength and stability of a mountain. Note how a mountain firmly plants itself against the earth — becoming part of the earth — while also stretching up to the sky.
- This pose could lead to drawing pictures of mountains with the children posing for one another in different mountain shapes. Allow the kids to bring their imaginations into the practice.
Warrior III Pose
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? This pose provides a gold mine of playfulness for children.
- Ask the children to start by standing on one leg.
- Now, have them fold forward to a flat back as they let their other leg rise behind them until it’s parallel to the floor.
- Finally, ask them to reach their arms back — on the same level as their torso and floating leg — with their palms facing down.
- Welcome any airplane noises, bird chirping sounds, references to swimming, skating, or other imaginative inspirations the kids offer.
The balancing aspect of this pose likely will lead to laughter, falling, and all kinds of bloopers. Go with it and, in the right moment, show the kids how to use their mindful, focused breath as an anchor and source of stability when exercising balance.
The corpse pose — known as savasana in Sanskrit — often proves challenging because it asks people to find complete stillness and surrender to a meditative, lucid sleep state. As a teacher, parent, or caregiver guiding children through a yoga practice, you should release any expectations you may have for how still the children will remain.
- Ask the children to lie down on their backs and relax their entire bodies. (This may lead to their arms, legs, and feet rolling out to their sides.)
- Use music, guided meditation recordings, or scripts appropriate for children that tell a story for the kids to focus on as they relax. (Over time, the children will grow into the restorative spirit of this pose.)
For more information on the benefits of yoga for children as well as additional yoga exercises and games to try, check out these resources: