Kids love yoga. And adults love it when kids do yoga because it focuses their minds and bodies, limiting collateral damage to homes and siblings. But what if you don’t do yoga or have no idea how to make it interesting for your kids?
Why it’s good
Yoga 4 Classrooms, which provides research-backed yoga curriculum for schools in the U.S., has a long list of how yoga benefits a kid’s mind and body by improving, among other things:
And that’s the extremely abbreviated list of benefits. (If you are a nerd about the research behind these claims, check this out.)
“Kids are natural yogis, they experience everything physically,” says Mariam Gates, author of several yoga and mindfulness books for kids. “They are the definition of ‘full-bodied’ and so for them, stretching their arms and letting out a big exhale has immediate results in how they feel. It is never too early to focus on the way the mind and body are connected.”
So kids will pick up on yoga instantly—in fact, they are probably already doing it. How can you help? Here are a few easy tips.
Start small and make it routine
No one starts out with the focus and stamina to do a 60-minute practice. Try starting with 5 minutes (maybe 10 if no one is whining).
“Even a few minutes of breathing and movement can go a long way in moving from agitated or tight or anxious to spacious and calm,” Gates says.
Lifehacker health editor Beth Skwarecki advises new yogis to set a time and place. Maybe yoga will be part of your bedtime wind-down. Or maybe it will ease the transition from school activities to dinner time. It could be a Saturday morning activity for the whole family to head outside and greet the sun.
Keep it fun
Give up the idea that yoga is serious or requires precision. You will know your kids’ favourite poses instantly—they are the ones that make them giggle, the ones they try again and again, even when you’ve moved on.
You can also personalise your practice by mixing it with something your child already loves. The Cosmic Kids Yoga channel has yoga videos that tie in every kid interest you could imagine. Frozen, Harry Potter, pirates, space travel, insects—you name it, there’s a kid yoga video for it.
Yoga with Adriene is also a good source for kid-friendly videos without all the cartoonishness, if that’s not your style. Austin-based yoga teacher Adriene Mishler’s channel has an amazing breadth of yoga videos for every mood and situation.
Let the pros do the teaching
You don’t have to know how to teach your kids yoga when videos and books are there to provide all the instructions at a kid’s level. Your library or bookstore will have many books about yoga just for kids. The best one is the one that gets you and the kids excited to try it. Gates’ Good Night Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Bedtime Story is one of my favourites for its sweet and calming illustrations, simply described poses, and bonus script for a guided meditation.
Another family favourite is I Am Yoga by Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds. The simple board book introduces mindfulness concepts along with a short yoga sequence.
For older kids and parents with a touch of yoga experience, check out Yoga for Kids and Their Grown-Ups by Katherine Ghannam. It is more like an instruction manual for grown-ups than a picture book for the little ones. It includes advice for doing yoga with kids of different ages and choosing a practice to accomplish different goals, such as calming, energising or grounding.
Still a little nervous about trying yoga? Gates says you know more than you think you do.
“Even taking a deep breath in and a long breath out right now can create a shift in how you are feeling as you read,” she says. “And if you added a little stretch or twist to each side to let go of tension, that too would make a difference. You know this because it is a part of being in a human body, and that—those easy shifts—are what comes from the benefits of yoga. So, having a physical body already qualifies you.”