Yoga is simple enough that your child can do it.
Here’s some suggestions for your kid at any age.
Infants (yes, infants)
First thing’s first. Set an intention before incorporating yoga with your baby. If you want to calm your baby down, try breathing exercises. If it’s to help them achieve motor milestones, help them maintain various postures with props and play.
Mantra: Sing songs and lullabies as it engages more language centers in the brain compared to talking. Not only does this help strengthen the parent-child bond, but music promotes attention and learning through repetition and predictability.
Pranayama: Have your baby against your chest to feel your breathing pattern.
Asana: Move your baby through simple movements or postures passively and slowly. Think bicycles, criss-crossing arms, or raising their arms above their head and back down. As they get older, you can guide them in Cobra, Table, or Downward Facing Dog.
Your adorable mini-me can benefit from yoga in many ways: longer sleep, reduced stress and fussiness, and improved neuromuscular development and body awareness.
Toddlers are constantly on the go because their curiosity. For them, yoga will not look like the yoga we’re accustomed to. The trick here is to match their current arousal level first and then gradually calm them down. So, if they’re hyper, move quickly from one motion to the next with moments of stillness (relaxation) in between.
Pranayama: In our post about emotional regulation, we said kids at this age are on emotional rollercoasters. Keep breathing techniques in your back pocket. Teach them how to understand their breath and how to control it.
- Make sounds while exhaling (ooh, ahh, shh, or big sighs)
- Add imagery to help understand a basic breathing pattern of inhale through the nose and exhale out the mouth (ex: smell the cookie, cool it off by blowing on it)
- To increase arousal level to stay focused, try sniffing like a bunny or Breath of Fire (rapid breathing through the nose using the diaphragm, like panting with the mouth closed)
- To teach how to control breath, try chugging like a choo-choo train (start slow with “chugga-chugga-choo-choo” with arms movements mimicking the wheel movements of a train and then increase its speed while ending with a whistle train sound)
Asana: Imagination and pretend play work really well with this age group. Try simple animal poses like Cobra, Cat/Cow, or Downward Dog while making animal sounds. To string a simple sequence, pretend to go to the zoo and have them name the animals they would see there and then do the poses. If they’re tricky positions, feel free to modify or make up a different posture. If you see they’re losing interest, feel free to add a 30 second “nap” before continuing the next position.
- Calming breathing techniques
- Knees-to-Chest Compressions (while lying on their back, have your child bring their knees to their chest and compress in quick short bursts). Have them time their compressions to go with exhaling.
- AKA Corpse Pose (have your child lie on their back with their body stretched out and have them relax into the floor).
- While in Shavasana, tense each body part (left arm, right arm, left leg, right leg) and then relax it. Then have them tighten their whole body and then release it. You can also have them pretend that their whole body is being stretched out.
- Have them focus to a vibrational sound until it gradually stops. Examples would be a gong, a chime, or a tuning fork. You definitely aren’t going to have these lying around the house, so feel free to use your phone for sound effects.
- Calming breathing techniques
- Humming Bee Breath (have your child breathe in and on the exhale, have them gently hum)
- Sighing Breath (have your child breathe in and on the exhale, sigh the breath out)
Elementary School Kids
As your kid gets older, continue to use stories and themes to maintain attention and engagement. They’re more attentive and can tolerate instruction a bit more. Guide them, but don’t force perfection, especially when it comes to postures.
- Sun Breath (with their arms at their sides, have your child inhale while sweeping their arms up overhead and then sweep them back down on the exhale)
- Breath of Fire or Darth Vader Breath
- Wood Chopper Breath (have your child clasp their hands together with their arms straight as if they’re holding an axe and, on the inhale, raise their axe overhead, exhale bringing their axe back down to their thighs)
Asana: Try simple sequences like Sun Salutations. One flow in the morning and one at night can be great additions to your morning and bedtime routine.
- Sweeping Breath (while on their back, have your child gradually begin to lengthen their breath, sweeping their attention from their toes to the crown of their head during the inhale, and reversing the attention while exhaling)
- Repeating mantras, like affirmations, words, or kid songs with repetition
- Count your blessings (thinking of things to be thankful for)
Middle School Kids
At this age, your kid should be able to use yoga independently in their routine. If they’re stressed for a test or a big game coming up, they can practice their breath or use relaxation techniques to calm down. Or if their back is achy from sitting too long at their desk, holding a stretch can help alleviate it. They can also handle more detailed instructions, have more awareness of their body, and can take on a challenge.
Pranayama: Alternate Nostril Breathing (while sitting, have your child press their right nostril shut and inhale then press the left nostril and exhale; then, keep the left nostril shut and inhale, press the right nostril shut and exhale. Repeat).
Asana: Consider postures and sequences that foster confidence, good body alignment, and muscle strength and stability. They can also start linking two or three yoga flows for a complete workout. Yoga poses to try:
- Warrior series
- Hero poses and variations
- Plank poses and variations
- Sweeping Breath
- Repeating mantras, like affirmations or words
- Sa-Ta-Na-Ma (chanting Sa-Ta-Na-Ma while touching each finger to thumb with eyes closed). Feel free to change the sounds to something else if you’d like.
- Guided meditations
- Body scans (asking your child to move their attention from the tips of their toes to the crown of their head, taking note of any sensations they are experiencing at each body part)
At this age, your kid could also do a full yoga session with you. Get them their own mat and invite them to the gym or studio.
We hope our suggestions help you gradually add yoga practice into your kid’s routine. If they take to it, there are kids’ yoga books and videos online to help you mix it up.
Cammisa, K. (2020, April 24). Yoga to Improve Sensory, Self-Regulation and Motor Skills in Kids: Autism, ADHD, Developmental Disorders, Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy. Retrieved from Digital Seminar – Yoga to Improve Sensory, Self-Regulation and Motor Skills in Kids: Autism, ADHD, Developmental Disorders, Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy (pesi.com)