With mental health on the rise among young children, schools are starting to recognise the extremely positive impact that yoga can have on our youth. Yoga helps children develop body awareness, understand correct postural alignment and learn how to cultivate a sense of relaxation on their own. Children who understand the importance of their physical and mental wellbeing are better equipped to handle the stress and anxiety that modern society can bring.
Here are some top tips to get your child interested in doing yoga at home:
- Always start with the breath. Have your child sit in a comfortable cross-legged position and hold an imaginary birthday cake out in front of them. Deeply inhale through the nose, and then exhale through the mouth to try and blow out all the candles on their cake. Repeat three times.
- Take them through a series of fun animal poses. Sound effects welcome! Here are some queues for getting your child into the more popular ones:
Lie on your tummy and face forward with your chin on the floor. Place your palms by your shoulders, and only using back strength (not your arms) lift your shoulders, chest and the top of your tummy off the floor, like a cobra poking its head out of the tall grass. Make sure you hiss like a cobra to scare off any predators!
Come up onto all fours like an animal, with your knees and palms on the floor. Start with a flat back and take a deep inhale. On an exhale, push into your palms, suck in your tummy and round your back to create an angry cat pose. Try and gaze towards your knees.
Come back onto all fours like in angry cat pose, then tuck your toes under, push into your palms, and send your bottom up to the sky, straightening your legs. If it’s uncomfortable, bend your knees. To take your dog for a walk, bend your knees one at a time.
Sit up straight and bring the bottom of your feet together so your legs make the shape of butterfly wings. You can flutter your wings by moving your knees up and down. If you want to get higher in the sky, you can use your arms as extra wings by moving them up and down from the floor to the sky.
- Use Sanskrit (secret yoga code words!) like “Namaste” (peace) and “Asana,” (pose.) Test them at the end to see how much they have remembered.
- Use queues that reference the sun, moon and stars like, “reach up to outer space and try to touch the stars.” A great pose to try is half moon: Stand with your legs together and reach your hands up to the sky so your palms are touching over your head. Keeping your palms together, reach your hands over to one side and send your hips in the opposite direction. Hold for three deep breaths in and out through your nose, then repeat on the other side.
- After all the physical poses are done, end with a cleansing lion’s breath. Come to all fours once more on your hands and knees like a lion. Breathe in deeply through the nose and then widely open your mouth and stick your tongue out to let out a powerful roar, forcing out a strong exhale. Repeat this three times.
- End class with a relaxing Savasana (corpse pose.) Have your child lie comfortably on their back with the sounds of nature or calming yoga music playing in the background. Tell them to close their eyes and imagine they are lying by a peaceful waterfall in the forest, or that their mat is a soft cloud floating through the sky. At this point you can simply leave them in silence, or read a calming short story. Most kids don’t want this part to end!
Carol Ann Foster, Foster Your Flow
I am a Yoga Alliance qualified instructor based in South West London. After receiving my Masters Degree in Education, I went on to work in schools in New York and London for seven years. Noticing how stressful school environments can be, I decided to qualify as a yoga teacher with the hope of helping children bring awareness to their physical and mental wellbeing. I am also passionate about literacy in schools and run a yoga charity class supporting two organisations: Learn to Love to Read and Live Karma Yoga. Learn to Love to Read provides reading support in local schools and equips parents with the tools they need to encourage reading at home. Live Karma Yoga teaches yoga to at-risk youth and children with disabilities and complex needs.