A Family Practice: Yoga with Kids

This entry was posted on May 10, 2019 by Charlotte Bell.

It’s a universal truth: having kids changes your life. Once you have kids, their health, welfare and care become your primary focus. And that’s as it should be. It’s a long-term, full-time job to help a newborn grow into a responsible, caring adult.

This usually means that your own health and welfare can take a back seat. If you’ve practiced yoga for years, having precious quiet time is no longer a given. Once your kids are older, it’s easier to carve out a little yoga time. But sometimes, the best option can be to invite your kids to practice with you.

Of course, this will not be an internally focused practice, but it can be enriching for both you and your kids to enjoy yoga together. Even if you’re not able to turn your attention inward, you will still be moving your body, stretching and strengthening.

If you’ve been a regular practitioner, you know the benefits of yoga for yourself. But kids can benefit too. Here are some of the ways:

  • Flexibility: Kids are naturally more flexible than adults. Teaching them to cultivate flexibility early in life can help them develop a positive habit they can carry throughout their lives.
  • Strength: You can help guide your child’s muscle development by having them practice strengthening poses, such as standing poses, core strengtheners and balancing poses.
  • Concentration: Kids are famously not so long on attention span. Practicing balance poses in particular can help them develop concentration. You need to concentrate in order to balance, so when you practice balancing poses, you cultivate the skill of concentration.

Practicing Yoga with Kids

Practicing yoga with kids isn’t going to look a lot like your regular practice. But this doesn’t have to be a problem. In fact, it can be a fun creative challenge. Here are some tips to help you cultivate a love for yoga with your little ones:

  • Speed it up: You may like a slow, luxurious practice, but in order to satisfy those short attention spans, you will likely need to keep things moving. With elementary-school-age kids, you may be able to start slowing it down a bit, but toddlers will likely need to a quick class.
  • Keep it simple: Even though kids are naturally more flexible than adults, it’s important to teach them simple, basic asanas rather than the “fancy” ones, the ones we often call “advanced.” You want to build basic skills that can create strength and flexibility without possible injury.
  • Invoke the animal kingdom: Yoga has lots of poses named after animals. Kids may more be more engaged in practice if they’re imagining being the animals named in various poses. You can even encourage them to imitate the animals. Here are a few of the classic animal poses: Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Marjarsana/Bitilasana (Cat/Cow Pose), Salabhasana (Locust Pose), Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose). And of course, there are poses from the plant world too: Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and Talasana (Palm Tree Pose).
  • Give them their own yoga mat: When your child has his/her very own yoga mat, that can encourage them to practice. Let them pick it out. There are tons of colorful choices on Hugger Mugger’s website.

Be creative. When you practice yoga with kids, it’s not going to be your tried-and-true yoga practice. But you can have fun with it. And the habits you instill in your kids can benefit them for a lifetime.

About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.