Sharing yoga with your child gives them the gift of being active. There are many benefits to a kids yoga practice, and they'll learn at a young age how to enjoy their body for how it makes them feel, rather than how it looks. This is an important and powerful message for parents to demonstrate!
Forget about your bodily hangups. Let your body-positive message be louder to your kids than what they might see or hear in the media.
Yoga with your children helps them to:
- Feel loving and loved
- Enjoy themselves and learn to value who they are
- Learn about and value their bodies
- Nurture their special strengths
- Experience non-competitive enjoyment of their bodies, playfulness, fun and collaboration
- Access a quiet place within themselves to cultivate during challenging times and experiences
- Fill up with vibrant, vital energy
- Practice balance, coordination and suppleness
We all know that kids love moving their bodies and being physically active. Practicing yoga with your children allows them the freedom to play with their bodies and bond with you at same time.
Here are a few great asanas to safely practice with your mini ones. You can help each other within these poses, but be sure to leave the more advanced modifications to mum and dad.
Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana)
Think you've mastered Plank? Try planking with your kid!
If you are confident in your strength and balance in Plank Pose, you can have some fun adding a mini one on top.
Get yourself in a stable and comfortable plank position first, with your shoulders directly over your wrists and heels lifted and pressed back, engaging the legs. Draw the navel in toward the back of your spine as you reach forward through the crown of your head.
Now, have your mini climb on board. Start with your child sitting on your back first, and if that feels OK, they can carefully try to stand up. If you want to take extra precautions you can try this on a softer surface near a wall, so they can hold it for balance if needed. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths and have your mini step off before you lower your knees to the floor.
Arm Balances (Bhujapidasana + Tittibhasana)
Kids love to test their balance, it makes them feel confident and strong. One of the easiest arm balances for them to try is Shoulder-Pressing Pose (Bhujapidasana).
Have them come into a squat and then lift their seat, placing their hands on the mat with the upper arms against the inside of their thighs. Guide them to lower their seat with the weight of their inner thighs pressing against the upper arms. From here, encourage them to reach the chest forward whilst trying to lift one leg at a time.
Remind them to squeeze the outer arms with their inner thighs, and draw the soles of their feet together. Breathe and hold for 30 seconds, then have them bend their elbows and release their feet back to the floor on an exhale.
While they give it another go, you can try Firefly Pose (Tittibhasana). Come into Bhujapidasana and with a big inhalation, stretch your legs out to the sides as straight as you can, with the backs of your knees pressed firmly into your triceps. Keep your pelvis high to ensure your legs are parallel to the floor.
Forward Fold With Advanced Variation (Utthita Uttanasana)
Your mini one can either watch you practice this advanced pose, rest in Forward Fold, or continue practicing arm balances like my son Remy (pictured here).
To practice this advanced variation of Forward Fold (Utthita Uttanasana), start with the softer version first by bending in the knees to protect your lower back. If this feels comfortable, you can go further by widening your stance, keeping feet parallel and reaching both arms outside of and behind the legs.
Wrap the arms now through the middle of the legs and cross the wrists so opposite palms grip into the shins, hold here and press the legs straighter to feel a deeper stretch in the hamstrings and shoulders.
If this feels comfortable and you feel you've warmed the shoulders and hamstrings, fold in and tuck the shoulders into or behind the knees. Reach behind to grip the hands or use a strap between them. From here, only straighten the legs slowly if it feels good. Hold for 3-5 breaths and release.
Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Triangle is one of my son's favorite standing poses. It's easy and accessible, which builds confidence in kids.
Begin with legs apart, with the toes of the front leg faced away from you and the back foot parallel to the mat. Inhale to lift arms to the side and exhale to reach and extend to the side, folding the bottom arm down to the leg and the top arm to the sky. Scoop your tailbone and draw your navel in as you twist and open through the chest. Breathe. Assist your mini one if need be.
Forearm Stand (Pincha Mayurasana)
Your children love to help out, don't they? We all know the oldest secret to shaping and reinforcing good behavior ... catch them when they're being good! Here, Remy is helping me stay balanced in Forearm Stand.
Begin on your hands and knees and lower to your forearms, with your elbows aligned under your shoulders. You'll want to try to keep your arms parallel as you
press your forearms firmly into the mat. Lift your hips to Dolphin Pose and start to walk in your feet as close as you can. Gaze between your hands and lift one leg straight up. Next try lifting the other. You may discover that you have a preference.
You can begin to hop with one leg as you begin to lift the standing foot off the ground as well. Be sure to engage the core as you lift to help you stabilize.
Once both feet are lifted, you can hold the legs in a split position. Have your mini there to assist you with your balance as you work on scissoring the legs together. Ask them, "How am I doing?", "Is my arm straight?", etc.
You will get some funny replies and funny adjustments, and they'll feel empowered for helping you!
All kids love to get upside down, and it's the ultimate expression of fun for big kids too! Support your child to build up to headstands over time, so that they perform them safely. Watch and support them by holding their legs or just being there as a backup if they need a hand.
Begin on hands and knees and interlace your fingers several inches away from a wall. Press the forearms into the floor and cradle the back of the head in your hands as you bring the crown of your head to the floor. Lift the hips and walk the feet in, and practice lifting one leg and then the other.
When both legs are lifted you can rest the heels to the wall and have your child spot you. Be sure to keep pressing into the forearms and outer edges of the hands to lift out of your shoulders to prevent collapsing. For a full headstand tutorial, click here.
Photos courtesy of the author