Contributor Tammy Page introduces us to the benefits of yoga for young children.
I love yoga. I’m not a yoga elitist, I like it all: Hatha, Power, Astanga, Hot. I really like hot yoga actually. I feel amazing after a class, although during it I feel like I’m about to collapse, or pass out, whichever comes first.
I’ve been doing yoga on and off since before my children were born. I liked doing gentle poses during pregnancy; it really helped keep me feeling healthy and fit. Afterwards it helped me to get my pre-baby body back to where it belonged (well, mostly).
And as soon as it was possible, I began doing yoga with my little ones.
They still like to do it with me when I’m working out at home and continue to practice on their own, using yoga stretches after gymnastics or horseback riding.
The benefits of yoga for children are the same for adults. The big difference being that they start to reap all those rewards at a much earlier age than an adult beginning a yoga practice.
Breathing more efficiently and having an awareness of your breath
Becoming stronger and more coordinated, important for both fine and gross motor skills
Learning stillness and silence, being able to listen to your body
Focus and awareness of self- important skills for children beginning school
Ability to relax your body
Balancing, another important skill for gross motor coordination, and creating core strength
The greatest challenge in teaching young children is to hold their attention long enough for them to reap the benefits of yoga. During a regular class, adults are expected to be silent, hold the poses for a longer amount of time, and have a general idea of what is coming next when the instructor quietly whispers “pigeon pose.”
In a kids class, it is much more active- you might find them growling like a bear, yawning like a sleepy lion, balancing like a flamingo, or howling like a wolf! You must be prepared to change your direction at a moment’s notice if you see interest waning. Most children love making the animal sounds and posing like a lion, tiger or bear.
If they begin to lose interest in a pose, give them a challenge; “Let’s see if we can hold this pose while we count to 20.”
I have listed below a few poses you can do at home with your child. There are great resources available for children’s yoga, such as videos, pose cards with pictures and explanations on them, and classes are popping up in gyms, dance studios and yoga studios.
Where I live there are a couple of yoga studios that offer a preschool class while mom goes and does a grownup class…ideal! ☺ But don’t shy away from a Moms & Tots class either- it can be so much fun and will probably include lots of giggles.
UPWARD FACING DOG: laying facedown on the floor, palms flat by shoulders (a pushup position), push your body up from head to waist, eyes up towards the ceiling, but neck relaxed. Breathe there slowly a few times, and lower to the floor. Repeat.
BRIDGE: Sitting on the floor, legs bent, hands down with fingertips facing towards your feet. Breathing out, push your body upwards to form a “bridge”. Hold for a few breaths, then release. Repeat.
TREE POSE: standing straight, feet together. Place left foot against ankle or calf, balancing on right foot. Extend hands upwards for balance. Right leg is straight, left knee is out to the side. Hold, breathe and repeat on the other leg.
These are hundreds of poses and variations of poses you can try. You probably do some of them already without even realizing it! Enjoy your journey into yoga practice with your little ones. Namaste.
About Tammy Page:
Tammy began her own Montessori school 9 years ago in Calgary, Canada. Her motivation was to offer an alternative form of education for her own daughters, so she pursued and received her Montessori training. Tammy is a contributor to the Montessorium community, and enjoys writing about yoga, teenagers, and all things Montessori.
Check back regularly for new posts about children’s yoga, and feel free to send us a note with your ideas, too!