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How to Introduce Yoga to Children

Written by Menushi Rajapakse

Discover the Power Yoga Can Bring To Your Childs Life.


Today children grow alongside their busy parents in a fast-paced world, shaped by demanding school curriculums, competitive extracurriculars, homework, and family time. All while adapting to remote learning, social distancing, and other consequences bought on by the pandemic. Stress is a common phenomenon most adults battle through, starting at an early stage occurring through experiences like peer pressure, preparing to take on the SATs, applying for college or landing the first job. Somewhere along the way we learned, and still learn to manage stress, relieve anxiety, and seek relaxation to unwind. However, when stress begins to creep into the lives of children, they are often not aware of what it is or how it can be managed. As parents, it is vital for us to equip and provide them with effective skills to manage their feelings and emotions.


What are the benefits of yoga for children?

Children can reap enormous benefits from yoga. Physically, it enhances coordination, flexibility, and body awareness. In addition, their mindfulness and sense of calmness. Yoga is an important tool for children as it is for adults for the same reasons.

  • Develops physical strength, aerobic capacity, and overall balance.

  • Helps relieve chronic pain such as muscle aches and growing pains.

  • Reduces the release of cortisone – the stress hormone, effectively reducing stress, anxiety, fatigue, and nurturing relaxation.

  • Improves the quality of sleep.

  • Helps uplift moods, enhance emotional regulation, and resilience.

  • Works on the child’s classroom behaviour, focus, and academic performance.

  • Improves the quality of life by bringing emotional balance since yoga is a non-competitive activity.

  • Six months of yoga, including meditation, poses, and breathing exercises, have shown to reduce body weight, and to improve endocrine functions and memory. (Lagudu, 2015)


How to introduce Yoga to your children


Yoga Poses


Museum

The premise is that you are a museum, and all of the kids are statues. They have a secret power of coming to life though, like in the movie “Night at the Museum.”

One person, the curator (or watchman) stands in the middle of the circle and the other students all pose as statues, preferably based on yoga poses. Once the curator is NOT looking, the statues come to life and are able to morph into different statues.

If the curator sees them moving, they are “caught” and have to sit down. The last one standing wins. (Horsager, 2020)


Strike a pose

Play music and the kids dance around the room. When the music stops, the children strike a pose. You could call out a pose, or try saying, “Show me a pose of an animal that is found in the water, or flies, etc”. Then the music plays again, the children dance, the music stops, and then they practice a different pose. (Yoga resources for kids, 2016)



Breathing Exercises


Simple breathing exercise


1. Take a deep breath in and hold it for a count of three.

2. Breathe out forcefully, like you are blowing out a candle.

3. Repeat this for five cycles of breath. (JD, 2016)


Flying bird breath


1. Stand tall, with arms at your sides and feet hip-width apart in standing Mountain Pose.

2. Imagine being a beautiful, strong bird.

3. Pretend to prepare to fly by inhaling and raising your arms (“wings”) until your palms touch overhead. Keep your arms straight.

4. Exhale slowly as you bring your arms back down to your sides, palms facing down.

5. Repeat in a steady motion with each breath: inhale as you raise your arms, and exhale as you lower your arms.

6. Optional: Close your eyes as you repeat the movements with breath and imagine yourself flying in the sky like a bird. (JD, 2016)



Yoga Games


Yogi says

One person is selected as the Yogi. The other players must do the yoga poses that the Yogi tells them to do if the instruction starts with “Yogi says.” If the Yogi doesn’t use “Yogi says,” then players do not do the pose. Keep changing the person who is Yogi, so that everyone gets a turn (JD, 2016).


Red light, green light yoga

One person is chosen as the Stoplight. He or she stands at the front of the room. The other players are the “cars,” and they start at the opposite wall. The Stoplight starts the game by calling “Green light!” The other players then use yoga poses to move forward. When the Stoplight calls “Red light!,” each player needs to be in a yoga pose and remain still. Everyone takes a turn being the Stoplight (JD, 2016).





Meditation


Mindful awareness meditation

  1. Find a comfortable seated position or lie down.

  2. Close your eyes.

  3. Try to listen to every single sound in the room. (JD, 2016)

Loving-kindness meditation

  1. Find a comfortable seated position or lie down.

  2. Close your eyes and think about someone you love.

  3. Hold them tight in your heart and continue to think about that person. (JD, 2016)






 


References


Ingunn Hagen, and Usha S. Nayar; Yoga for Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Well-Being: Research Review and Reflections on the Mental Health Potentials of Yoga; NCBI(2014)


Michelle Mochan; The Benefits of Teaching Yoga to Young Children with Special Needs: Developing an Appropriate Methodology; International Journal of Technology and Inclusive Education


Horsager, M. (2020). Yoga Games for Kids: Active Kids Yoga Group Games. [online] Kumarah. Available at: https://kumarahyoga.com/5-active-kids-yoga-games-to-have-fun-in-a-group/ [Accessed 12 Dec. 2020].


Lagudu, S. (2015). 15 Best Yoga Poses For Kids. [online] MomJunction. Available at: https://www.momjunction.com/articles/easy-and-effective-yoga-poses-for-your-kids_00377906/#Citation2 [Accessed 12 Dec. 2020].


Yoga resources for kids. (2016). How to Do Yoga Games with Large Groups of Kids (Printable Poster). [online] Available at: https://www.kidsyogastories.com/yoga-games-large-groups-kids/ [Accessed 12 Dec. 2020].


JD, M.W., MD (2016). More than just a game: Yoga for school-age children. [online] Harvard Health Blog. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/more-than-just-a-game-yoga-for-school-age-children-