Yoga can be a great way to equip kids not just physically, but emotionally and intellectually, to deal with the stress and pressure that modern life can naturally place us all.
The benefits of yoga for kids are vast, including:
- Provide them with the time and space to breathe and properly relax
- Boost self confidence and self esteem
- Provide a unique way to have fun and enjoy physical activities in a non-competitive environment.
- Increase balance, concentration and focus
- Explore their creativity and personal limits
If you’re looking to enrol your child in yoga – when you’re looking for a kids yoga class, ensure the teacher you choose has been properly trained to teach kids. Classes for children vary greatly from those for adults. Kids will benefit both physically and mentally, from attending classes taught specifically for their age group. This will also enhance their experience with yoga from the start and over time, they may discover that they love yoga just as much as you do!
If you’d like to practice with the kids at home – when teaching children yoga, keep it simple! Most kids won’t do the yoga poses “correctly” in the adult sense of the word. The yoga experience for kids is a way to explore the unfamiliar with an open mind and be comfortable in their bodies. And that’s ok. No worries if they start on the left instead of the right or twist the opposite direction. I believe it was Rumi who wrote something like, “Out beyond ideas of left and right doing is a field. I’ll meet you there…”
The sequence of yoga poses outlined below is for young school-aged children. If your kids are younger than school-age, just do less.
17 Yoga Poses for Kids
Here is a kids yoga pose sequence for children of young age or in primary school:
1. Butterfly. Seated, soles of the feet together, knees dropping naturally toward the floor. Begin breathing deeply through your nose. Encourage your butterfly to sit tall and take the breath all the way to their upper and lower wings (arms and legs). Add up and down movement of arms and legs, increasing the length of each inhale and exhale. Inhale arms and knees up, exhale release arms and knees down. Encourage them to match the movement to their breath.
Hands on ankles, shins or feet, fold forward — nose to toes. Send lots of breath to the back ribs.
Sit back up, cross ankles and transition to hands and knees for the next pose.
2. Cat/Cow. Inhale arch your back, dropping your belly to the floor. Gaze toward the sky. Exhale round your back to the sky like a scared cat. Repeat several times. The movement of the spine helps to keep the spine supple while matching the breath to the movement leaves kids feeling balanced and fluid through their torsos while being grounded on their hands and knees.
3. Down Dog. From hands and knees, send the hips sky high and stretch like your favorite dog. Ask what kind of dog they are. Can they wiggle their tail? Downward dog provides a great stretch for the entire backside of the body, through the arms and shoulders. Let them be playful — get a good stretch just like dogs and cats do!
Stay in Down Dog lift one leg high to three legged dog. Now try lifting the opposite arm. Have them wave to you or wiggle their tail (raised leg). Great for balance and fun when when everyone falls. Make sure to try both sides!
4. Mountain. Stand tall, feet parallel, hands at your heart. Feel the earth beneath your feet while your head reaches to the sky — just like a mountain. This pose builds strength and confidence to simply stand and be. Encourage them to close their eyes and imagine what it’s like on their mountain. Is is snow capped? Sunny? Can they see what’s below them?
Circle the arms out and up over head on a huge inhale to High Mountain. Exhale to forward bend. Fingers tips to the floor to help with balance. Lunge your left (or right:) leg back for the next pose.
5. Warrior 1. Front knee bent, back leg straight, both heels anchored to the ground, arms reaching to the sky with both hips facing the same direction as the bent knee. Peaceful warriors are balanced, rooted to the earth and true to themselves. Peaceful warriors walk their talk, inspiring others with their actions and words.
Encourage them to balance their breath, evenly metered inhales and exhales. Ask if this makes them feel peaceful and determined. Keep the same knee bent for the next pose.
6. Warrior 2. Open shoulders and hips, arms stretched out to the side, gazing toward the bent knee side, way past your fingers. Warrior 2 is about strength. Strong legs, hips, arms and shoulders. Ask if they can support themselves feeling strong in this pose–even if they want to quit. Can they trust themselves to stay for 5-10 deep breaths?
7. Plank pose. From warrior 2, place hands on floor, step front foot back to meet the back foot. Be solid as a plank, strong huge piece of wood. Ask them to straighten their legs, curl their toes under and see if they can grow an inch more between the top of their head and their heels. This pose will build strength in the arms, shoulders, legs and abdominals. Build up strength by trying to hold this pose a little longer every time you do it. Gently release knees to the floor for the next pose.
8. Rock (Child’s Pose) Hips to heels, knees and shins parallel with each other, arms and fingers reaching back for your feet. Connect with the ground, the earth. Can you be still, heavy, silent? Rest and just be where you are. Wherever you imagine your rock to be.
Repeat Warrior 1 & 2 on the other side, starting and ending in Mountain pose.
9. Tree. Standing on one leg, other knee bends to side so that food can tuck inside the standing leg. Start with hands at heart like Mountain pose. Gradually extend arms and fingers to the sky. Sway and move like a tree, doing whatever feels natural with their limbs and branches. Encourage feeling stable, rooted and balanced while they’re able to move and bend like a tree. Repeat other side.
10. Airplane. Standing on one leg, other leg extended back. Hands at the heart, until you fly opening your arms like a plane, tipping your torso forward so it’s parallel with the floor. Turbulence is good here! Planes don’t always fly a smooth path. Focus and balance even though the ride might be bumpy. This pose is not only great for balance but builds strength in backs, legs and self confidence. Repeat other side.
Land in Mountain pose to set up for the next pose. Reach for the sky, lunge the left leg back, knee to the floor.
11. Dragon. (Kneeling with one knee to the floor behind like a dragon tail). Ask them what dragons breath. Place hands on your belly and stoke your dragon’s fire breath. (Kapalabhati Pranayama) Audible inhales and exhales as you pump your belly out on the inhale, draw it in on the exhale, making lots of heat for the fire. After 5-10 belly pumps, exhale the fire, stick out your tongue, show your dragon claws and make a huge dragon sound. The deep dragon breathing will cleanse and strengthen their lungs. Keep legs the same for the next pose.
12. Twisted Dragon. Twist and spiral your spine toward the front bent knee. Start with your dragon palms pressing together at your heart then slowly extend your dragon wings with one arm high, other fingers reaching to the floor. Repeat other side from Dragon. Don’t forget the dragon breaths. After the second side, come back to hands and knees for the next pose.
13. Plank. Slowly bending elbows to lower to the floor. Last one to their belly wins a prize!
14. Cobra. Hands under the shoulders, elbows bent toward the sky. Rise up to your hands as you reach and lengthen your legs back. Hiss like a cobra. Do 3-5 cobra push ups. Encourage them to try to pull the bottom half of their bodies through with their hands.
Lower to belly and relax. Cobra build back and arm strength.
15. Bow. Stay on belly, bend both knees, reach back to grab ankles, shins or feet. Rise up arching your chest forward and pressing the bottom half of your legs toward the space behind you. Can you sing your favorite song here? Maybe try an OM. Don’t try so hard that it’s difficult to breathe! Release to belly and roll onto your back for the next pose.
16. Lying Twist. Bend your knees toward the ceiling. Pause take a deep relaxing breath in and out. Give your self a hug by gathering your knees into your chest. Keep your knees bent toward your nose and extend your arms out to the sides like a big letter “T”. Drop your knees to the right and slowly take your gaze to the left. See if you can keep you knees together as you slowly lower your knees to the floor. This is the most Yin like pose in yoga. Relax. Practicing reclined twists can make them more open and receptive. Repeat other side.
17. Savasana. Lie back, relax, close your eyes and take your gaze and awareness inside. Listening to your own breath, feeling the sensations in your own body. Encourage them to leg go as they breath out and feel their body melt into the earth. This could be a good time to play soft, meaningful music, tell them a story or place a small token on their foreheads to encourage them to stay still and silent.
3 Tips to make yoga with your kids fun:
- Bookmark this page on your phone, iPad or computer, or print it out and use try using this sequence for your at-home yoga session with your child or children!
- Practice more animal named poses and incorporate making the sounds the animals make. Hiss like a snake in cobra. Moo like a cow and meow like a cat in Cat/Cow.
- If your kids are older, hold the poses a little longer, share the sanskrit name for the pose and/or the story of how the pose originated.
Above all, keep it light and fun. They’ll gain more than you may realise just spending quality time with you, doing something you love.
Yoga is something that kids can practice anywhere. No mat, special clothing or props are necessary. The poses, concentration, breath and the way kids learn to act and react to certain situations may lead to constant self discovery and inquisitiveness. This may be a quality they are able to carry through teen-age years and into adulthood. It’s possibly one of the best benefits a yoga practice provides!