Practicing yoga can sometimes come with huge expectations of what a yogi is and who practices it. But actually, holding on to these stereotypes goes against the whole purpose of yoga- that anyone and everyone can practice it! Even children! So how exactly do we teach such a mature and disciplined practice to kids? Introducing this sacred practice to the little ones out there is actually quite simple and can be so fun and rewarding!
You’d be surprised at their willingness to learn and understand. While adults tend to have many excuses for this and that, children are quite the opposite. They’ll tumble, fall, and fail without fear. They love putting their bodies into weird poses and making noises with their breath. The key to teaching them such a mature practice, is to relate to them. How can you animate your voice? How can you make every class interactive? How can you explain every pose to them in a way that they not only understand it, but want to try it? Here’s a quick 15-minute guide to help introduce and grow the next generation of yogis!
Opening Intro and Pranayama
With every yoga class you’ll generally begin with a short meditation to open the practice, settle into the space, and create the class energy. When teaching children, you’ll stick to this format, but change it up a bit. You’ll want to begin by explaining yoga and what it is. Keep it simple, positive, and uplifting. Let them know that by practicing yoga, they’re creating something - like in art class and also contributing something - just like sharing toys or snacks. You can ask questions and have them answer one-by-one or teach them to set intentions. Anything that is highly interactive. You can then continue with a simple breathing technique that includes some sort of interactive prop or exercise. Think playful, light, and game-like. I like to bring a feather to the class and pass it around in a circle, giving each child the chance to blow on it with their breath. You can come up with any creative and engaging idea that will help them understand their breath and how to use it.
Short and Sweet Meditation
To introduce meditation, I always prepare a photo of a popular cartoon or television character meditating in a lotus pose. You can bring and show photos of Disney princesses, Yoda, super heroes, etc. You want to give them some sort of an example of what meditation is - and what better way to relate to them than by showing them that their favorite character does it too! Keep it humorous and light-hearted here. The children will love it! Begin by introducing the quiet game and rewarding them with the photo to take home, or some other kind of prize. You can also teach them to use sound meditation by guiding them through the OM technique. This is a great way to get them to all participate and stay active. It works really well to even have them hold hands, or connect prayer hands here. Remember, engage and interact!
While adults tend to like vinyasa or ashtanga classes that flow and connect, children will require a more hatha approach. But, with a different kind of energy! Instead of creating flows, you’ll pick anywhere from five to ten poses to teach them. You’ll go through each pose slowly and interactively. You’ll want to really relate to their world here! If you teach frog pose-have them make sounds like a frog and hop around. If you teach tree pose-have them stand tall and steady like a tree. If you teach puppy pose-have them bark like their dog. These are ways that will entertain them and keep up their interest. The hardest part about teaching yoga to children, is keeping their attention span. Finding the perfect balance to keep them interested and focused is your challenge here!
Just like children hate nap time….they also hate Savasana. So, the best way to end a class is with an active meditation. I like to use dancing meditation or positivity exercises. For dancing meditation, you can put on a popular children’s song or something up-beat for them to dance around to for a few minutes. Remind them that they cannot talk, touch each other, or run. In this way you are introducing them to an empty space in their minds while also allowing them the freedom to move their active little bodies. You can also have them return to their opening seated position and choose an interactive sharing exercise. I like to go around the circle and have them each say something kind about the person next to them or share something that they’re excited about for the rest of their day. Anything that can help introduce consciousness and compassion into their sweet young souls.
This short guide is a quick introduction to bring yoga to the next generation. It’s a way to help bring more consciousness and mindfulness into today’s society. Let’s start them young, shall we?