Teaching Yoga to Kids
Credit: "Yoga III" by sunchild123 on flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The practice of yoga has been around for thousands of years. Since its introduction to the West by gurus from India, it was become a very popular form of exercise with many health benefits. However, once you delve deeper into yoga and its philosophy, you realise it is much more than that. Yoga provides a unique experience that benefits the body, mind and soul.

One of the best things about yoga is that it's highly adaptable and can be “tweaked” to match the physical abilities and health condition of every individual. It is also suitable for people of all ages, including kids. In fact, children can greatly benefit by it. This becomes more evident as the wonderful ancient practice, reshaped to meet the needs of children, slowly finds its way in yoga centers, daycares, special classes and in the school curiculum in some countries at least.

How Is Yoga for Kids Different?

In principle, yoga for kids has the same goals as the practice we know and love as adults-to promote a balanced and healthy way of life and enhance feelings of happiness and compassion, as well as a sense of clarity and purpose. However, yoga for kids is much more than a mere sequense of poses that serve as a form of exercise.

Children's classes are fun and exciting. They intergrate several different elements like music and song, games, storytelling and even drawing. Kids use what they have learnt in creative and imaginative ways. They immitate elements of nature or assume the qualities of wild animals. They incorporate their yoga poses in the stories they come up with.

In the following video there is a wonderful sequense that combines yoga, dancing and colours.

Kids' poses have unsual and intriguing names. For example, the Bridge Pose could be named a 'Whale”, the extended Warrior Pose might as well be a “Giraffe”[3]. In ABC Yoga, each pose has its very own letter of the alphabet. There is also a little poem to go along with it[4]. All these elements create some very interesting learning opportunities and of course the chance to have fun with yoga!

The Benefits of Yoga for Children

Yoga Class for Kids
Credit: "Kids Yoga Class" by Ilona on flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0

By introducing children to the practice from a young age, you offer them a great gift and the opportunity to acquire an array of skills that will enrich their lives tremendously. Here are some of the many benefits of yoga for kids:

  • It helps them improve their flexibility, balance and strength.

  • It assists them in developing body awareness.

  • The breathing exercises increase lung capacity and promote deeper breathing.

  • It enhances their focus, concentration, as well as their memory and ability to follow instructions.

  • It gives them proper body alignment so that they avoid injury.

  • It ecourages their creative powers and allows them to express themselves.

  • It boosts their levels of confidence and self-esteem.

  • It promotes self-control, cooperation and respect towards others.

  • It enhances their metabolism and improves their immune response system.

Special Yoga for Special Kids

Special Yoga for Special Kids
Credit: "Yoga for ADHD KIDS & CAREGIVERS" by J on flickr, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Yoga is suitable for children of all abilities. There is a growing awareness about the benefits of the practice for children who face various physical-motor, social-emotional, and cognitive challenges.Certain asanas (poses) may be adapted to meet the needs of a particular child. The instructor can guide the kid through the movements if he or she is unable to practice them alone. In addition, visual aids (for example flashcards) are often used to help the young yogis participate. Children with problems such as joint stiffness, muscle rigidity or hypotonia benefit greatly.

As children become more aware of themselves, they are able to listen better and follow instructions.The practice of breathing techniques can effectively provide them with a sense of calm and a feeling of security in their emotions. Yoga helps them deal with their anxiety, improves their motor coordination and their sensory responses. In addition, the yoga class provides an excellent opportunity for these kids to socialize with their peers, engage in group activities and relate to one another.

The Practice of Yoga in Schools

Yoga can be useful in the school setting as well. As a beneficial form of exercise, it is an excellent addition to the school curriculum. In addition, it can support the learning process inside the classroom. Here are some points to consider:

  • Yoga can assist you in creating a calm and harmonious classroom environment.

  • It gives students a healthy way to express their emotions and, at the same time, it reduces their need for impulsive behaviour.

  • The breathing exercises are very helpful in reducing stress (especially before an exam!)

  • Yoga improves focus, comprehension and memory. Students become better listeners.

  • It promotes patience, reflection and concentration.

  • It improves the students' postures, allowing them to sit at their desks for long periods.

  • It helps students with their learning by bringing them into the present moment.

  • It promotes cooperation, respect towards others and a sense of community in the classroom.

The next video presents a yoga program for Australian primary schools.

Yoga for Families

Yoga can be a fun activity for the whole family. If there isn't a yoga center that offers family classes in your area, you can always practice at home and spend some quality time together. There are several products that can help you in that: kiddie-sized yoga mats, instructional DVDs, flashcards and, of course, fun online videos. By introducing children to yoga, you can add real value to their lives and help them grow as individuals.