How Parents Can Connect to Children Through Yoga
As a parent of two young children and a yoga instructor my goal is to bring yoga to as many people as I can. I want to live it, love it and teach it in however many ways that entails. Any parent who stays at home with their child or works full time knows there still seems to always be a lack of time to spend with our kids and to teach them valuable lessons that will help them become well rounded individuals capable of taking on the world. When I was the new kid in school or a young girl in puberty yoga would have been so helpful to my self-esteem.  

When I first started practicing yoga all I knew was yoga were poses that I did that created flexibility, balance and strength. Who knew there was more to it than just asana? The first time I was asked what yoga was in a definition I really didn't know how to describe it. Here are some simple terms to explain to your child when he or she asks: What is yoga?
1. Moving your body/exercise
2. Learning to breathe well
3. Learning to focus or working your brain
Yoga has a myriad of benefits to children. The more we learn about yoga and children's developmental stages the more we start to realize more benefits for kids. Some of these benefits include:
1. Increased Focus

2. Increased compassion for all living things (people, animals, other children, etc.

3. Non-Competitive Activity

4. Promotes Self-Awareness, self confidence, expression and discipline

5. Healthy Breathing

6. Improves imagination and ability to communicate

7. Stress Releasing, promotes sleep

8. Helps children accept themselves as they are

9. Promotes a healthy body and mindful eating habits

10. It is FUN!
5 ways to introduce your children to yoga!

1. Kids Asana  (Yoga Poses) You don't need to worry so much about alignment. Encourage them to feel the essence of the pose. We do this through imagination. We explain the poses through the use of animals, letters or shapes. For example you do a basic sun salutation with donkey kicks.

From mountain pose inhale arms to the sky, exhale forward fold (hands to the toes), inhale hands to shins, exhale step to dog pose, inhale a few breaths, exhale donkey kicks hopping with the legs to the butt (remind children to be careful always), inhale to top of the mat, exhale forward fold, inhale arms up to the sky, exhale hands to heart. I usually do these around 5-10 times to get the body warm.

2. Games/Group Activities - using games and other activities can help with memory, imagination and teamwork. Some games I like to use are:

   a. Appreciation Circle - taking a ball of yarn and throwing it to someone telling him or her what I appreciate about him or her. Then continue on until everyone has had a turn.

   b. Create a story with yoga poses - You go around in a circle one by one starting with a line to start the story and incorporate a yoga pose. The second person recites the first line and then creates the second line. Keep following through until you come to the last person.

   c. A-Z Yoga Shapes -  This can be a variety of things. I will sometimes ask the child to take the first letter of their name and try to come up with their own yoga pose for that letter.  

3. Pranayama/Breath Work - Breathing exercises are done to calm the mind and relax any excess energy.

    a. Hot Air Balloon - Stand up inflate yourself like a hot air balloon then run around the room and fall to the ground letting the balloon deflate. Go through this breath a few times especially right before any relaxation poses to release excess energy. Don't forget to make sure you have enough room to do this!

    b. Bumble Bee Breath
- Inhale through the nose and exhale make a buzzing sound until all the air is let out. This can calm any stress, anxiety or fears.

    c. Ujjayi Breath - This is the breath we use during our asana exercise. Best way to describe how to do it for children is to tell them to breathe like they are fogging up a window. Then do it with the mouth closed. This is also calming yet creates heat in our bodies.  

4. Meditation/Savasana - I will teach at the beginning of class with a sitting meditation with the eyes closed. At the end we lay in savasana or corpse pose. If a parent is nearby sometimes I'll have the child lay their head on the parent's belly. Otherwise we take the hands to the belly or make like spaghetti noodles with the arms and legs.

    a. Breathe in Good thoughts & feelings & Breathe out Bad - During our beginning meditation we are sitting up with palms resting on the knees. I tell them to close their eyes and breathe in the good thoughts and feelings and bring it to any parts of their bodies that need help feeling better. I tell them to breathe out letting out all the bad. Poof it's gone!

    b. Happy Place During Savasana - Lay down on your back closing the eyes or they can lay down on their belly laying their head on their arms crossed creating a pillow for the head. I always turn out the lights or make it dim. I tell them to breathe in and out a few times to start slowing the breath and body down. Then get them to start thinking about their favorite place and describing the sounds, feelings, smells, etc. that they might come into contact with. Take them on a walk where they can visualize and feel where they are.

5. Incorporate a Theme -
Use your imagination! Maybe there is an area in school your child may need help in. This can help them focus more without feeling any pressure. Sometimes I use the seasons or super heroes! Who doesn't love a super hero! They can be anywhere from a soldier to Spiderman. You can start anywhere from visual idea’s. When you are in warrior pose what type of hero are you?  

The most important things to remember are is its yoga. Use your imagination and have fun with your child! You can even try a family yoga class or have a kid’s yoga party for their birthday or a special occasion!  

Her are some resources to get you started:

Books & DVD Resources: yogakids.com & gaiam.com

Books To Try: 

Teaching Yoga to Children Through Story (Storytime Yoga) by Sydney Solis

Itsy Bitsy Yoga: Poses to Help Your Baby Sleep Longer, Digest Better, and Grow Stronger by Helen Garabedian

Babar's Yoga for Elephants by Laurent de Brunhoff

Kids Yoga Teacher Trainings: karmakidsyoga.com (NYC) & yogawood.com (NJ) Great if you want to dig deeper into teaching your child yoga or would like to teach it yourself. 

Move and laugh!

Namaste! 

To learn more about meditation or yoga, check out our video courses The Essential Guide To Meditation With Charlie Knoles and The Complete Guide To Yoga With Tara Stiles.
About the Author
Erica Rowland is a Yoga Instructor for children and adults. She received her certifications through NYC Sonic Yoga's 200-hour program and also certified for Kids Yoga through New Jersey's Yogawood, as well as a Reiki Level 1 Practitioner. She is a busy mom whose passion is to bring happiness to her children and the rest of the world through Yoga and wellness one day at a time.
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