Below are my 7 top tips for Making Yoga FUN and Accessible for Kids. After all, if we want kids to enjoy yoga and get the full benefits of the postures and breathing exercises, we need to make it age appropriate and fun!
1. Follow a Framework:
Having a well written lesson plan is absolutely key! Creating a story that kids can easily follow along with, and have visuals or an image in their minds about how something should feel or look like, really helps the poses come alive. The framework may come from a children’s book you love to read (so many use animals and nature, which yoga is full of!) or a make-believe story about something like a trip to the beach. Either way, having a journey for the kids to follow along with, and poses/creative movements that all flow together, will make for smooth and engaging kids yoga classes! Find some fun themes and resources in my online store.
2. Use Props & Music:
Keep poses fresh by adding in props that match your theme. My favorite kids yoga props include:
- Movement Scarves
- Breathing Ball (Hoberman’s Sphere)
- Paper Sunshine/Leaves/Moon for the students to hold in their hands and they stretch to the sky, or down to their toes.
- Stuffed animal toys for breathing exercises. (See my calming yoga post)
- Real photographs of animals or other familiar objects for them to imitate (SO many traditional yoga poses are based on real things in Nature–mountains, trees, animals…). Having photographs and talking about the qualities and characteristics of each item helps the students to embody those qualities in their yoga poses. For example: “See how powerful, mighty, and tall this mountain is! When you hold your pose think about how strong you are and how nothing can knock you over! Stretch your body to the very top of the highest mountain and hold the pose powerfully as you continue taking deep breaths in and out”).
Music also helps kids jump in to a new routine, or can aid in changing the pace mid-way through your yoga session by either energizing, or slowing things down. Here are my top recommendations for music for yoga and creative movement, and relaxation:
3. Spark the imagination:
Take your students on an adventure. Be playful and silly. Use the imagination to feel like you are really on the journey, or in the story you are acting out. If you are going on a trip to the beach, then start by “putting on sunscreen”, “placing flippers on your feet, or goggles on your head”. Really embody the story and adventure fully!
Here are a few of my favorite adventure kids yoga sequences. They all include a full teaching script and printable yoga cards with real photos of each pose: Find them in my online store.
4. Join Them:
We know kids learn so much by watching and imitating us! If they see you jumping in and doing the poses, they will follow along as well. Also, when it comes to physical exercise or sports, seeing the movements in person is so much easier to follow than having someone just read you the instructions. Therefore, I always encourage the instructors to become familiar with the poses first, then do the poses with your students at least until they become familiar with them. All of my products have safe and easy-to-follow instructions for each pose, along with a photograph of the pose/movement in action. They are appropriate even for those with no prior yoga experience.
5. PRAISE, don’t Over-correct:
Kids Yoga is about doing good things for our body and minds, along with having fun. Nothing takes the fun out of something faster than constantly having someone correct you and re-position your body while you are doing it (in fact, that can actually cause an injury). Safety is definitely a top priority–and if you are using lessons from a professional kids yoga teacher, you know you will have the safest poses for kids bodies–but unless there is danger of an injury, try not to offer too much correction. Instead, welcome new “expressions” of the poses, praise them when they challenge themselves to balance longer, or try a harder version of a pose. Encourage every step of the way and make them feel good for the progress they are making no matter if they are just beginning, or already holding a warrior III pose :)!
6. Fold in Partner Poses:
Partner Poses are a great way to mix things up, and add a bonding experience for classmates, or even parents and kids! My favorite partner poses include: Double boat, partner chair pose, and Double Tree. This Healthy Living site gives some fantastic samples of other partner poses.
7. Add a Challenge:
I love to give multiple options for each pose based on varying ages and abilities. Tree Pose for example can be done in stages. Perhaps the first time in your yoga story, you use the “easiest” version of the pose. Then when you repeat the pose on the other side, or even later on in your story, offer variations that are a bit more challenging. Students love to try and see if they can master a new pose. Here are the 3 versions of Tree Pose I use in my classes:
Level 1: Stand tall in Mountain Pose. Shift your weight onto one leg. Lift the opposite foot up rest it against your planted foot. You can leave your toes on the ground (almost like a kickstand of a bike) to help with balance. Place your hands on your hips, or bring them up to your “heart space” (chest level) with palms touching. Find a spot out in front of you to focus on to help with concentration and balance, while you take nice long easy breaths. Hold here for 30 seconds. Imagine you are a strong and mighty tree. You are rooted firmly in the ground. Not even the strongest wind can blow you over! Release your raised foot, come back to a neutral stance, and then switch sides, lifting your opposite heel from the ground. Hold for 30 seconds while maintaining breathing and focus. This time, if you are feeling very steady, grow your branches (arms) up towards the sunshine. Shake your leaves by wiggling your hands and focus to stay upright and balanced. GREAT JOB!
Level 2: Let’s challenge ourselves a bit more this time. Stand tall in Mountain Pose. Shift your weight onto one leg. Begin to bend your opposite knee and draw your foot up to place it flat against your standing leg (feel free to use your hand to reach down and help with placement of the foot). You can rest your foot either on the inside of the lower part (shin area) of your standing leg, or on the inside of the upper part (thigh) of your standing leg —just avoid placing the raised foot directly on your knee, as knees are meant to bend forward, and not from side to side. Envision yourself as a mighty, strong, and steady tree. Your roots grow deep, and your branches grow high. Reach your branches (arms) up towards the sunlight. Find a spot out in front of you to focus on to help with concentration and balance, while you take nice long easy breaths. Hold here for 30 seconds. Release your raised foot, come back to a neutral stance, and then switch sides, lifting your opposite foot from the ground. Hold here for another 30 seconds while maintaining breathing and focus. (Instructor, it is super fun to pretend to be the wind and see if you can “blow” any of the trees over as you move from student to student!).
Looking for more tips on Introducing Yoga to Kids? Click the image below to visit my post:
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