In our bustling life, children are bombarded with many stressors as well as sensory overload. School, friends, extra-curricular activities, video games, busy parents, and competitive sports, just to name a few! Because we are on the move so much, we forget that our children can be affected by these daily stressors. And these stressors can often squelch the light of joy in them.
Creating a yoga practice for our children can help them to return to a place of calm, balance, and especially, joy in their lives and bodies. Stress and pressure are diminished by cultivating an openness to learning yoga techniques that enhance positive coping skills such as self-health, relaxation, inner fulfillment, cooperation, and compassion. By learning these skills or techniques, our children are better equipped to handle the curve-balls that life will throw at them! According to Marsha Wenig, founder and creator of YogaKids, “Children derive enormous benefits from yoga. Physically, it enhances their flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness. In addition, their concentration and sense of calmness and relaxation improves. Doing yoga, children exercise, play, connect more deeply with the inner self, and develop an intimate relationship with the natural world that surrounds them. Yoga brings that marvelous inner light that all children have to the surface.” (Yoga Journal, online).
Many independently owned Yoga Studios, Health Clubs, and Park Districts have Kids Yoga and Family Yoga classes on their schedules. They are fun, interactive, playful, and focus on being creative! You can expect to find singing, games, art projects, and music sprinkled within a class! However, if you are unable to find a place hosts a Kids Yoga or Family Yoga class or the times don’t quite match your family’s schedule, there are always options to create your own class at home. There are multiple books, CD’s, and DVD’s you can purchase that your child and the family can take part in.
Here is a simple yoga sequence you and your child can do at home, either together or individually:
1. & 2.
In yoga, we move as we breathe. For example, we stretch on the inhale and relax on the exhale. The Sunrise/Sunset pose is a good all-over warm-up for any activity:
- Stand up tall. Take three to five deep breaths.
- On the next inhale, lift your arms above your head. Press your legs and feet down toward the ground and stretch your spine and waist toward the sky.
- As you exhale, bend the upper half of your body at your waist down toward your legs, as if you were diving into a pool. Bend your knees a little at first, to avoid straining your back. Bend as far as you comfortably can. As you inhale again, open your arms wide and stand up slowly, stretching your arms to the sky.
- Repeat this six to 10 times. As you inhale and stretch, think of the glowing, rising sun. As you exhale and fold, think of the setting sun. These two work together to mark the passing of the day.
- Stand up straight and tall. Breathe in and out and feel your legs reaching toward the ground and your head reaching toward the sky. Look at one spot in front of you to keep your eyes steady.
- Now lift your right leg by bending your knee. Breathe evenly, looking at one spot in front of you. Place your right leg on your left leg, above the knee (or below the knee if that’s more comfortable). Imagine roots growing from your left foot into the ground. Let your left leg be strong like the trunk of the tree. Now stretch your arms up like branches. Don’t worry if you start to fall; just smile and start again from the beginning.
- Breathe in and out while in the Tree pose. When you are ready to come down, lower your arms, place your right leg on the ground, and stand in the Mountain pose. Then try the Tree pose on the other side.
- Sit on the floor and place the soles of your feet together. Hold on to your feet or ankles, and let your knees drop toward the floor. Sit up with a tall spine.
- Imagine that you are a butterfly with beautiful wings stretching out from your spine and with long antennae reaching out from your head.
- Stand with your legs wide apart. Bend forward at the waist, bending your knees a little bit. Let your arms hang or hold your elbows and swing your upper body back and forth like a gorilla. You can also just hang forward over your legs without swinging.
- Lie on your belly. Breathe in and relax your body as you breathe out. Bend your knees and take hold of your ankles behind you. As you breathe in, lift your head and chest and legs off of the floor. Pull your feet away from your back to stretch your chest and belly.
- As you slowly breathe in and out in the Bow pose, lift your head and feet toward the ceiling. Feel the arch in your back.
- When you are ready, come down slowly on an exhalation, and rest on your belly.
- Lie down in a comfortable position. Take a deep breath and then exhale slowly. Close your eyes and imagine a beautiful color. Whatever color you choose first is the right one for today.
- Now imagine the color filling you up from the inside. Let the color start in your belly and spread into your legs, arms, back, and head.
- As you lie still, take slow breaths in and out and keep feeling the color fill you up. When you are ready to get up, sit up slowly and notice how you feel.
Excerpted from The Kids’ Yoga Deck: 50 Poses and Games (Chronicle Books, 2003), by Annie Buckley.
Suggested Reading, etc…
Yoga Pretzel Cards by: Tara Guber and Leah Kalish
Yoga Kids by: Marsha Wenig
Yoga Games for Children by: Danielle Bersma & Marjoke Visscher
Kids Yoga Classes in Your Neighborhood
Universal Spirit Yoga–408 W. 5th Avenue, Naperville
Elmhurst Yoga Shala—506 Spring Rd., Elmhurst
Yoga 360—91 Bankview Dr., Frankfort
Lifetime Fitness, Various Locations
Park Districts, Various Locations