Yoga Activities for Kids
Yoga Activities for Kids
In the yoga classes I teach for children and teens, one of the favourite activities for the kids is final relaxation. Lying down flat on the back, closing the eyes and following the cues for relaxation takes people deep into inner stillness and is one of the best antidotes for stress. Many kids are busy with activities, stressed with school and sports schedules, coping with family stress, and living life in noisy cities apart from quiet nature. In addition, the hours spent with computers, iphones and wireless devices causes a kind of stress with the mind busy and the body forced to hold positions or repeat motions that cause muscular tension. Yoga is an old science with many health benefits for modern youth. Yoga is an ideal activity for kids of all ages because it balances physical activity with mental stillness and the challenge of inner growth and self-knowledge.
Kids yoga pose: Tree
Find family yoga classes.
1. Join a family yoga class with your kids and give the whole family an opportunity to learn yoga in a fun, low-key setting. Look for a family yoga class at a yoga studio or community centre, which often run a class or series of classes where parents and children can learn yoga together. These may be also be held as monthly special events or celebrations. Consider hosting one for your children's friends, as part of a party theme or birthday party. In a playful environment, instructors teach beginners’ postures, often in pairs, so participants can learn variations of yoga poses in partners, and work together or beside each other.
Sign them up for yoga for kids at a studio.
2. There may be classes in your neighbourhood community centre, fitness centre, or yoga studio where you can sign up for kids yoga. Usually these classes are for youth 8 and up, who have the maturity to respond to cues about safety. Since children are very flexible, and their growing bones are still soft, they may harm themselves if they try pushing the body into positions they are not yet ready for, as they try to show off or keep up with their friends. In my former neighbourhood, maala taught wonderful family yoga classes and yoga for kids classes, as well as offering teacher training.
Join Kirtan, or music activities with kids and yoga.
3. Join in a local yoga music event, or chanting mantras. Find out when there is a kirtan, or “yoga campfire songs” in your community, where traditional yogic chants and instruments move in call and response style between the kirtan musicians and the crowd. Often there are rhythm instruments, or you can use keys, clapping, or bring our own shakers. I love to go to these fun, informal, meditative yet joyful community songfests with a group called Give Peace a Chant, and also at the Sivananda Satsang in Vancouver.
Yoga Platform, Sivananda Ashram, Bahamas
Share summer activities with kids and yoga.
4. Take a family vacation to an ashram, such as the Sivanada Ashram in Val Morin, Quebec or on Paradise Island near Nassau, Bahamas. This is a wonderful experience for families to share the yogic lifestyle and touch their inner stillness and spiritual essence, supported by a community of people at all degrees of devotion to the human spiritual task of achieving bliss through union with all that is.
- Stay in the lodge or bring your own tent.
- Eat vegetarian meals, rise early and join the community for early meditation at six.
- As a vacationer, participation in the daily schedule, including classes, talks, and community work detail or karma yoga, is optional, but guests are encouraged to join as much as possible to support the mental focus the community is developing.
- Yoga classes are at ten and four, dinner at six, usually an evening program includes speakers about science, history, environment, medicine, or performers in kirtan, dance and more, and is followed by evening kirtan, or singing yoga chants together.
- In a rural environment, there are places for walks, a swimming pool, a sauna, and many quiet places to read or play on the grass or under trees.
5. There is also a kids camp at some of the ashrams, where kids 5-12 years old can sleep in cabins with groups their age and a counsellor, while they join the kids program of yoga and summer fun activities like swimming, hiking, singing, and field trips.
Tibetan Sand Painting in Denver Museum of Art
6. Spend time this summer exploring yoga as art. Visit the Tibetan monks making sand painting in your area. Watch them use coloured sand to draw intricate mandalas, or geometric patterns used as the focus of meditation.
7. Colour or draw mandalas, and teach how many cultures use these as ways to develop one-pointed focus and cultivate inner stillness.
Walking the Labyrinth
8. Visit a nearby labyrinth, or incorporate a stop into a church with a labyrinth on a summer trip to visit or camp. With your child, walk slowly and mindfully on a labyrinth , an embodiment of a mandala.
9. Explore yoga activities with kids at your library. Look for books on Indian culture, philosopy, and art. Read the stories from the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, timeless classics of world literature, full of legends and mythology with tales of princes in battle, great love stories, faith, loss and redemption. Read and tell yoga stories: the Bhagavad Gita, on one level, reads like a fairy tale, with warring princes, wicked uncles, and a magical lord Siva whose throat is larger than the universe. Many of the yoga poses are named for old heroes with stories behind them, such as Matsyasana, Fish Pose. The legend goes that Matsya the king of the fishes was listening when the first yoga teachings were given to the sage Matsyendra, and the king of the fishes attained enlightenment.
Join a Mommy and me program.
10. Look for a Mommy and Me yoga class for parents with babies or toddlers. These are short classes, 45-60 minutes usually, often offered at a community centre or yoga studio. They include gentle yoga postures that help get the mother back into shape after delivery, and often involve holding the baby close or using the baby’s body weight to deepen the stretch. Parents feel comfortable moving in and out of the class to breastfeed or change the baby as necessary, because it's all parents and babies in the room and everyone knows how life goes with a baby.
Start yoga classes for kids at school.
11. See if your school will set up a yoga class in the physical education program. Often schools have a budget for guest instructors to come and offer a short series of classes so kids can experience forms of activity they might not have encountered. Ask. See if a local yoga teacher will run a series after school for forty five minutes.
Youth Yoga: Cobra Pose
Add yoga in sports activities for kids.
12. Many high performance athletes use yoga as part of their cross-training because it develops flexibility, strength, awareness and mental focus. Find out if your child’s sports team uses yoga for warm-up or cool-down stretches. My daughter’s gymnastics team used Sun Salutations as part of their stretching training, and many of the stretches for flexibility were yoga postures: wheel, wide-legged forward fold, hanumasana and lunges for splits preparation. When practised regularly with proper breathing, the physical stretches increase both flexibility and strength.
Kids Yoga Poses: Moving into Baby (Pose of a Child)
Try these easy yoga poses for kids at home.
13. Here are some postures you can do at home. In many of the poses, children like to make the sound of the animals as they take the anmial poses. Once the group knows a repertoire of poses, sometimes they have fun playing yoga games like musical statues, and when the music stops the children take poses and hold them until the music starts again. If you don't know these postures, you can learn them here.
- fountain forward fold
- cobra (snake)
- baby (child pose)
- shooting arrow
- final relaxation
Get Kids' Yoga Teacher Training.
14. Kids' Yoga Teacher Training programs are usually less involved than the usual 200-hour or 500-hour trainings to certify with Yoga Alliance as a Registered Yoga Teacher. Often the kids' training is offered in a twenty or forty hour format on one or two weekends. Courses include the basics in breath training, guided relaxation, story-telling, basic simple postures safe for kids and recommendations for deepening your own yoga practice so you can guide children better. Don't be afraid to start yoga with kids even if you are no expert, for many of the postures are natural to developing children--cobra, pigeon, hero, savasana. For many kids, practicing yoga feels like coming home.
Why offer yoga activities for kids?
Sharing a yoga practice with kids is one of the greatest gifts we can give them, a powerful tool for managing stress and maintaining inner balance. Yoga is a gentle form of exercise that is non-competitive, and puts kids in touch with their bodies and minds. It brings physical benefits of flexibiity, balance, strength and organ health. It is a skill they can practise all their lives. It teaches breath awareness, and the beginning of meditation. It raises awareness of global community, compassion and kindness to all beings, with its teaching of oneness of life. Yoga means joining--the individual with the divine inner spark, and through that wholeness, joins each of us to all others. It is not a religion, but a practice for life-long physical, mental and spiritual well-being.