I had an enlightening conversation about children’s yoga with the parent of an 8 year old child early in my yoga training. I had suggested that the boy practice yoga at home with his parents in order to improve his ability to focus and pay attention at school. His parents had learned yoga during their childhood and I was pleased to think that they could practice yoga together as a family. I was surprised when his mother told me that it would be impossible for her son to focus long enough or to coordinate his body well enough to imitate the yoga poses, and I realized quickly that her idea of a traditional adult yoga practice and my idea of yoga for children were quite different. Her son had in fact found his way into a beautiful Tree Pose during his occupational therapy session with me and afterwards he drew a detailed picture of himself in the pose. He also wrote a lovely sentence describing it. What was different about his yoga experience was that it met him where he was in his physical and emotional development, which was, of course, different than where his parents’ skills were. Even so, the end result was similar for him in that he came out of his yoga practice energized, yet calm.
Children’s yoga, like children’s literature, is designed to match children’s developmental levels for motor skills as well as their ability to focus and sustain attention. These are two important areas of development that tend to improve when children participate in yoga classes. Additionally, yoga has been found to improve children’s strength and flexibility, body awareness and coordination, posture and balance, concentration and memory, and ability to develop a sense of calm and relaxation. Although yoga itself is a non-competitive activity, it can be helpful for young athletes to improve skills and prevent injuries. There are lots of laughs and wiggles followed by relaxing activities geared toward helping the children learn to become centered and calm. We practice breathing exercises, child-friendly yoga poses, activities and games, guided imagery/relaxation and mindfulness activities. Classes often end with some sort of creative response. Classes are theme-based using age-appropriate children’s stories, poems and inspirational quotes as a springboard for movement and creative responses, games and discussions. Inspired by the YogaKids® method, we’re aiming for fun, fitness and feeling good!
I look forward to sharing yoga with your children and to learn from them what children’s yoga looks like.
Holly Love, MA