Hey yogi, this basic guide to kids yoga is for you if you're keen to introduce yoga into little ones' lives so that they can experience all of the benefits of yoga, just as you have. What is yoga for kids, you ask? Well, although kids' yoga may look different from an adult yoga class, it is essentially the same thing; physical fitness activity combined with breathing exercises and mindfulness.
As a yoga instructor who has taught human beings of all ages, including toddlers at yoga camp, I'm sharing why yoga benefits children and the best movements and postures to teach them.
Read on to learn how to introduce this ancient practice into the lives of not-so-ancient little ones!
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Yoga for kids benefits
Did you know there are many fascinating benefits of kids' yoga, such as:
- Improves concentration & academic performance
- Helps kids manage emotions
- Teaches kids how to breathe deeply
- Promotes calm and relaxation
- Boosts self-confidence
Yoga for child development
Young children frequently fall over and hurt themselves as they do not have the level of balance and proprioception that an adult has. Falls are not something children or parents enjoy.
Practicing yoga assists a child's natural development in terms of body awareness and coordination, which can reduce the number of falls and injuries. Experts agree that kids age 5 and up can start learning yoga.
Yoga asanas also strengthen a child's growing body and improves their flexibility. This is particularly beneficial during growth spurts when muscles can tighten up. Plus, the more a child stretches during their younger years, the more they can maintain their flexibility during adulthood.
Teaching yoga to children can also support their academic development in school. Regular yoga practice helps kids improve their concentration skills and teaches them self-discipline and how to hold themselves accountable for things like doing their homework!
Balancing poses are particularly effective, as the laser-sharp focus they cultivate in a yoga class will eventually spill over into their school and home life.
Why is yoga good for children’s mental health?
So how does yoga support a child's mental development? Well, like with adults, it all starts with the breath.
Yoga helps children connect to their breath and learn how to use it to manage their emotions. Combining deep breathing and mindful movement helps children cultivate mindfulness by understanding their feelings. This enhances their ability to control their impulses, resulting in fewer mood swings and improved behavior.
Emotional regulation and breath connection have a calming effect, resulting in sleeping better at night and feeling less anxious in new or challenging situations.
Lastly, as yoga is a pressure-free activity, it helps boost children's self-image and confidence. Plus, when they manage to hold their balance or master a new pose, they feel accomplishment and pride.
Children’s yoga research
The benefits mentioned above have been proven through various research studies. For example, one study examined the connection between anxiety reduction and yoga in children. Researchers found nearly all children who participated in the study experienced less anxiety after attending yoga classes than before.
Moreover, the study tested children aged 3 to 18, which shows two things.
- Yoga is beneficial to kids of all ages
- You can teach your children yoga from as young as 3 years old
Easy yoga for kids
So now you know just how beneficial kids' yoga can be; you're probably wondering how to explain this ancient spiritual practice to a 5-year-old!
Well, I won't suggest you read them the yoga sutras – unless you're trying to send them to sleep! How you explain and teach yoga to a child depends on their age, and there are a lot of great yoga videos that can help you with this.
The most basic way to explain yoga to young students is as a way to exercise our bodies, minds, and breath at the same time.
For very young children, teachers often describe it as a practice where you use your body to make shapes of all things in the world, from animals to vehicles to nature.
For older kids, parents can explain yoga as an ancient philosophy teaching us to find happiness within by balancing our minds and bodies. The breathing exercises and body movements help us rebalance ourselves.
Yoga poses for kids
The best type of yoga for children to learn is the traditional hatha yoga poses.
I find a great way to keep kids engaged is to take them through a series of animal poses and encourage them to make the noise of each animal while holding the poses. This is called animal yoga, and young kids love these kinds of classes!
It's also essential that children learn breathing techniques. You can spend a minute at the beginning of the class teaching them how to breathe at a slower and deeper pace. Then, as they hold each pose, remind them to breathe deeply.
Here are five fun yoga poses you can teach to children. For more pose ideas and teaching methods, look into Marsha Wenig who is the founder of YogaKids International, Inc., the original and leading provider of yoga for children.
Five fun kids' yoga poses
1. Mountain pose
This posture improves balance and stability. In kids' yoga, I cue them to bring their arms overhead and place the palms together to create the shape of a peak. I then encourage them to tap into the qualities of strength and power a mountain has.
2. Tree pose
Kids usually love the challenge of standing on one leg in this posture. You can also get them to bring their arms overhead and sway like a tree in the wind.
3. Airplane Pose
This fun balancing yoga pose improves balance and body control and enhances confidence and focus.
4. Kangaroo pose
Kangaroo is physically challenging, so it will get the kids' hearts racing! First, bring them into a chair pose, then cue them to bend their elbows and bring their hands to their chest like a kangaroo. Then, get them to hop up and down their mat a few times.
5. Monkey Pose
Monkey is one of my favorite kids' yoga poses to teach. It is a standing forward fold where the children swing their arms from side to side and make loud gorilla noises! As well as making the kids giggle, it loosens their spine and back muscles and promotes relaxation.
Takeaway what is yoga for kids?
Now you know what is yoga for kids and why it is so beneficial, why not share it with your children? Or, if you're a teacher, propose some kids' yoga classes to your local school and help the children in your community experience more focus, relaxation, and body-mind connection.
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