Yoga For Children

         

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Yoga for children is a constructive, creative way to engage your child in breathing practices and physical activity that can yield benefits in many areas of development, as well as being a fun family activity.

Yoga is a no fail activity, with many creative ways to engage, so it’s a great way to structure play whether your child is a toddler or a teen - or even if you have a full house and have some of each! Since yoga poses are built from the inside out and rely upon internal sensation and alignment, each child can have their own unique expression. A toddler’s Warrior 2 will look very different from your teenager’s stance in the same pose because your toddler is still learning how to sense and move their body, and their strength changes, even from day to day. Your children’s pose expressions can even respond to one another for a fun, interactive impromptu yoga session.

Yoga encourages balance and coordination, and children of all ages benefit greatly from this practice. If your brood are in the preschool or elementary range, their bodies will be growing, changing and adapting rapidly and this can produce challenges to balance and coordination. The development of the central nervous system in the toddler and preschool years makes this and even more dynamic task. For these children, basic standing postures like Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 and Triangle Pose introduce fun new ways to relate to their body in space, as well as introductions to interesting ideas. Tree pose or other one legged postures can take a while to become steady, but sometimes trying is just as fun.

Teenagers and tweens can build strength and confidence in the basic standing poses, and begin to enjoy the challenge of alignment in Extended Side Angle Pose or the dynamism of the Sun Salutation. They are probably more flexible than they’ll ever be again, so this is terrific time to create habits of cultivating and protecting their natural strength and flexibility. More complex balance poses such as Eagle and even Arm Balances can introduce fun and challenge into a teen or tween centered yoga session.

Yoga teaches children practical, effective and dynamic stress reduction. In one short yoga session, your children can practice expressing energy and emotion through sound, stillness, movement and breath. Consider breathing in and out together, elongating the exhalation or even chanting vowels and discussing where you feel the sound reverberate in your bodies, and how it feels to make sound together this way. Help your children create stillness at the end of a frolicking yoga practice by reclining on their backs or in Crocodile on their fronts while you lower your voice and read a favorite poem or story. A family yoga romp is a natural intro to nap time.

Yoga cultivates both focus and concentration, a spectacular benefit to preteens and teens who experience sometimes surprising growth in the demands they are expected to meet. If your clan includes children in fifth grade or above, they may be coming home with more homework or trying to balance a number of after school activities. Couple that with a budding social calendar, interest in a part time job and even learning how to drive, and a little fun time practice in concentration and focus may yield surprising benefits. Focus is cultivated when your child rests their senses or mind one point or aspect of the pose, for instance, the placement of their back arm relative to their body. Concentration develops when children remain in poses for multiple breaths with a specific point of focus.

Things to remember when introducing yoga to your children:

  • Keep practices brief and moving
  • Have age appropriate expectations for balance, coordination and quietness.
  • Allow for lots of expression and laughter as well as encouraging periods of quiet.
  • Practice in a safe space, perhaps with blankets around or in a carpeted space.
  • Consider making a story of the asana to lead your child from pose to pose and capture their attention.
  • Keep your words kid sized and your explanation short. Demonstrate freely.
  • Ask them to create poses for words they know: What would squirrel pose look like? Or goose?
  • Incorporate sound in the form of songs, or just intoning the vowels in different poses

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