Stretching Their Skills -- Ultimate Guide to Yoga for Kids
Do you love yoga and you want your child to take part in your passion? Do you simply want your child to find a healthy way to let off some steam and stretch their body?
If so, yoga might be the answer for them. Even children can benefit from yoga, and the benefits can be for both their bodies and minds.
With obesity a big problem in the United States, anything you can do as a parent to encourage your child to fit some extra movement into their day is a good thing. I’m always encouraging my kids to move around because I know it’s good for them.
Our guide will share some of the great things yoga can offer children, as well as some safety tips and poses to get you started.
15 Benefits of Yoga for Kids
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Yoga can help your child in so many ways, but it will also be fun for them. They won’t know they’re reaping the benefits of exercise and relaxation -- they’ll just know they look forward to their stretching time every day.
1. Health Benefits
If you’re looking to maintain or improve your child’s health, yoga is a great place to start. Here are some of the positive things it can do for your child’s health.
Teaches Awareness of Breathing
When kids learn how to control their breathing, it can help them manage pain (source). If your child suffers from any kind of condition that can cause chronic pain, like migraines, yoga may help them deal a little better with it.
Increases Posture and Strength
Yoga may look like an easy activity, but it requires a lot of physical strength and it will build upon the strength your child already has.
As muscles develop and they learn more about holding various positions, your kid will be more mindful of their posture. Proper posture will help your child do daily activities with less strain on their body.
Improves Balance and Coordination
Balance is an important indicator of physical health (source). The better your balance, the better off you are.
Yoga increases your child’s balance but also their coordination. When it comes time to play any sports in school, those yoga sessions with your child can really pay off.
Burns Excess Calories and Wards Off Disease
Although yoga isn’t vigorous activity, it’s still great for your heart. It has been shown to decrease blood pressure, better your heart rate and breathing, and increase your circulation (source).
Part of that heart health can come from losing weight from yoga. Although the calorie burn for yoga is modest compared to more vigorous exercise like running, it can still help your child lose a little weight, especially combined with other activity.
Helps Your Child Sleep Better
Getting enough sleep can help your child’s immune system function at its tiptop level. When their immune system is going well, they can ward off more colds and flus.
In addition to the physical benefits, their mood will improve with the better quality of sleep. That’s good news for both your child and you.
Promotes Healthy Exercise Habits
Every year, about 250,000 people die early from diseases and conditions that would have been preventable if they had regularly exercised (source). Yoga is a good exercise to use to start instilling physical fitness habits.
It’s not as intimidating as more vigorous exercises like running are. And when your child starts making physical fitness a habit, they’ll be more likely to become a lifelong exerciser and see the value in continuing.
2. Mental Benefits
Yoga offers more than just physical benefits -- it can help a child mentally as well. Those lessons can be carried into adulthood too.
Cuts Down on Anxiety and Depression
With all of the pressure today’s children face in school and through social media, they need some coping skills to deal with everything on their plate.The calming lessons learned during yoga can help them fight the anxiety and depression they can feel (source).
When kids learn new skills and work their bodies, they start to feel more comfortable with themselves and their abilities. That can lead to more self-esteem, which is something that can be in short supply in school-aged children.
When a child increases their level of self-esteem, it can change every aspect of their life. It can help them make new friends, get better grades, and potentially even join extracurricular activities they would have never otherwise considered.
If your child has been called a handful or you’ve noticed they seem to go slightly overboard during certain situations, you might have a hyperactive child on your hands. A soothing activity like yoga that gives them a chance to decompress a bit and reduce their overstimulation might be in order.Yoga is at least worth trying for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your child. Some studies have shown that it can be effective for children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (source).
It’s Great Stress Management
The level of concentration yoga requires will help your child focus, which is a powerful antidote to stress (source). Think about how much better you feel by doing a few quick stretches after a hard day of work -- your kids will feel the same about stretching and relieving some of that stress.
Stress can build up to critical levels when you’re a kid, even when adults think kids have the easiest life imaginable. Finding a safe way to cope with that stress can be a huge relief for children.
Shows Them How to Live in the Moment
It can be hard to focus on the moment you’re in during a busy, crazy day. Children, in particular, can struggle to stay in the moment and let go of what has just happened or stop anticipating what might happen next.
Those little minds seem to move as fast as their bodies do!
Yoga will get your child to focus on something other than the problem they’re currently up against. It forces them to slow down and think about taking deep breaths and figure out how to recreate a pose.
3. Educational and School Benefits
Yoga may even improve your child’s performance in school and help them thrive there as well. With dedicated practice, their grades might improve and that might encourage them to like school more than they did before.
Helps Hone Focus and Concentration
Yoga requires concentration and the ability to tune out distractions to accomplish the task at hand. That kind of attitude can spill over into your child’s school experience too.When they are able to tune out the distractions of other children at school and concentrate on their lessons, their school performance will improve (source).
Shows Them That Discipline Pays Off
Some kids want instant gratification. Yoga shows them that if you really want to master something, you have to keep working at it.
That lesson of discipline will greatly benefit them in school. But it’s also a great lesson they can carry with them throughout their life, whether it’s in the workforce or even when managing their finances.
Helps Kinesthetic Learners
Some students don’t learn by hearing or watching, they learn by doing things physically. Those students are called kinesthetic learners.
That’s why yoga is good for kinesthetic learners -- you can help them study while they are doing yoga. Or they can take short yoga breaks during a study session to help them focus better.
Encourages Self-Expression and Creativity
Yoga lets kids explore their creativity and allows them to find safe ways to figure out who they are (source). Self-expression is an important part of a normal development so it’s beneficial for your child to have an outlet like that.
Safety Precautions for Getting Started
Before your child begins doing yoga, there are a few things you should be aware of. While yoga is a safe and beneficial exercise, there are some precautions you might want to follow.
- Don’t expect too much: Expecting perfect breathing or for your child to hold long poses might be too much for them. Laying off any huge expectations will help them enjoy themselves more and won’t add stress to an exercise that’s supposed to be a stress buster.
- Find an appropriate instructor: While your child’s form won’t be perfect, it should be decent enough to let them reap the benefits of yoga. If you aren’t a yoga buff, you might want to find someone who is to help your child master yoga.
- Be careful that your child doesn’t overextend: Kids have a natural tendency to stretch as far as they can, even if they aren’t comfortable while doing so. You should let your child know to stop when they feel the pull or burn during stretching and poses.
- Go with bare feet: Mats are a good idea when practicing yoga and you should always make sure your child has bare feet when practicing it. If they’re wearing socks, they can slide and potentially hurt themselves.
- Watch out for underlying conditions: Children who suffer from migraines should watch out for poses that require a lot of various head positions (source). Children who have asthma should be carefully watched for any shortness of breath.
10 Tips for Introducing Kids to Yoga
If you want to get kids interested in yoga, it isn’t hard to do. Just show them some poses and they’ll be ready to go.
Here are some other tips to ease into a successful yoga transition for your kids:
Kids learn by the example you set. If you make fitness and yoga a priority, they will too.
But the opposite is also true, if you make inactivity a priority while encouraging them to stay active, they’ll understand that too. The best motivator will be them seeing what you do, rather than what you say.
If you don’t know how to do yoga, there are plenty of classes for children at local gyms or with private practitioners. Or you can brush up on some simple basics of yoga for your child to do at home.
If you start talking about the more technical aspects of yoga or you attempt to get your young child to care deeply about meditation, you’re probably fighting a losing battle. What they want is fun.
Every child likes animals, and incorporating animal poses into their yoga routines will make it more fun for them (source).
If you want your child to really reap the benefits from yoga, they need to do it regularly. For best results, you should have your child practice three times a week.
As you’ll see when your kids get older, they’ll do anything as long as their friends are involved. That’s not always a good thing, but at this age, it can work to your advantage.
If you invite a friend or two to tag along to the yoga session, your child will be more likely to look forward to it because it will give them a chance to hang out with their friends.
Plus, you’ll be helping another little kid become healthier and happier too. After all, moms should look out for every child they can, not just their own.
Young children love hearing stories and they become excited about whatever they read. That’s where you can use a number of yoga-themed children’s books to aid you in your mission.
While adults may strive for the perfect pose, it’s something kids shouldn’t have to worry about. As they practice and continue with yoga, they’ll naturally get better.
In the meantime, they shouldn’t be pressured to do anything more than hold some basic poses, learn breathing, and have fun.
Kids love music — it’s entertaining to them and motivating. Any activity they do is suddenly more fun when music or dance is involved.
Kids thrive on routine and exercise programs are no exception to that rule. As you get started, announce each segment of the workout to your child so they know what to expect.
Tell them when it’s time to warm-up, when it’s time to do poses, play a game, have quiet time, and do a cool down session.
While routines are a good idea, it’s also smart to spice things up once in a while. You don’t want things to become so routine that they get boring.
Add a new pose occasionally or a new song for them to listen to and learn. If your child really loves one segment or is having a breakthrough about how to hold a pose, work at it a little longer than usual.
Keeping things fresh will make them want to keep coming back for more.
Once your child gets the routine down, let them take the lead during a session. You can act like the student and ask them to be the teacher.
They’ll get a kick out of it, and you might be surprised at what a great job they can do. If they’re not quite ready to take the lead, ask them what they’d like to do next.
They’ll feel important giving you their input and watching you implement their suggestions.
15 Fun Yoga Positions for Kids
Now that you know why yoga is important and how it can help your child, you need to know which poses are suitable for your child. You’ll need to find less complicated poses that your child will be able to master.
It’s okay to challenge your child with a slightly more difficult pose, but you don’t want it to be so hard that you frustrate them.
Here are 16 great poses to teach your kids:
Your child will like this pose because they’ll love getting to imitate a tree -- role playing is fun for children. The tree pose can help your child with their coordination, while improving their ankle and calf muscles.
Standing with their feet together, your child will move their foot up to their inner thigh and rest the bottom of their foot there, while maintaining their balance.
Upward Hand Pose
This pose will have your child reaching high above their heads with both hands locked together. They should like this pose for its simplicity, but also for how relaxing it feels.
This one is a great pose for relieving tension and loosening up early in your routine.
Your child will like trying this pose to see how flexible they are.
For this one, they’ll sit down on the ground, bend their knees and draw the bottom of their feet together. Then they’ll bring their heels toward their pelvis as far as they can go.
This position can help soothe back pain and stretches the lower part of the body.
Extended Side Angle
To do this pose, your child will go into a lunging position, then they’ll reach down and put one hand on the ground and bring the other up high in the air.
This pose will be a fun challenge for kids and it will strengthen the legs and stretch the midsection.
Downward Facing Dog
Kids will like doing downward dog because it looks like a lot of fun and they’ll get a kick out of doing animal poses.
For this one, they’ll use their body to make a pyramid shape by sticking their butt up in the air and creating a wide base with their arms and legs. This one is great for relieving tension along the spine and strengthening the arms.
Kids get to act like a snake in this position, which will be highly amusing for them.
They’ll lie down with their belly on the floor. Then they’ll raise their upper body off the floor, placing their hands in front of them for support (source).
This exercise is good for the spine and for stretching the midsection.
This is another animal position that will be fun for your children, especially if they moo as they do the pose. For this one, they’ll get on all fours on the floor, put their head up toward the sky and drop their belly toward the floor.
This pose is good for relieving tension from the lower back and stretches the hips, chest, and abdomen.
The cat pose is often paired up with the cow pose because your child can go from one to the other seamlessly. Your child will like transitioning from one animal to the next.
While going from the cow pose to the cat pose, they’ll bring their stomach back up and round their back while bringing their head down. This works many of the same areas as the cow pose, so it will be good for the back, hips, and chest as well.
With this position, your child will strengthen its arms, legs, and torso.
If your child is a fan of the cobra pose, they’ll like this one too. It’s basically the cobra pose, except their hands will be tucked at their sides instead of in front of them.
Lie and Rest
Your kid may get a kick out of doing this pose when you tell them another name for it is the corpse, or dead body, pose.
After your child gets used to doing it, it will help them with relaxation. To do this one, they’ll lie on their back on the floor. They’ll pull their arms and legs away from their midsection as much as they can while concentrating on relaxing.
Your child will like the challenge of trying to act like they’re sitting in an invisible chair. Their thighs will get a great workout with this pose.
To get them started with this pose, have them first practice lowering themselves into a sitting position against a wall. Once they master that, have them squat as if sinking into a chair without any support and then have them reach up to the sky with their hands.
The boat can be a challenge, which your child may love. They’ll know if they can pull this off, they’ve accomplished something pretty big.
They’ll rest their bottom on the floor, lean back while keeping their back completely straight, and they’ll lift their legs off the floor, keeping them together and straight as well.
This pose may not look like much, but it will build a seriously strong core.
Standing with their hands on their hips, your child will bend forward while trying to keep their knees straight. They’ll try to bend down enough to nearly rest their chin on their shins.
They’ll love the idea of trying to fold themselves in half at the waist.
This exercise will stretch the legs and hips, as well as helping to strengthen the knees and thighs.
Seated Front Bend
This pose is similar to the stretches you might have done in gym class when you were still in school. Your child will sit on the floor with its legs out in front and then they’ll bend forward as far as they can go.
Your child should like this exercise because it’s easy to see how much they improve from week to week. This pose may help with headaches, stress, and it stretches the hamstrings.
Warrior Pose 1
Kids will love this pose just for the name alone -- every kid will feel instantly tougher doing a warrior pose. To do this one, they’ll do a lunge while lifting their hands in the air as high as they can go for a deep stretch.
This is a great exercise for stretching abdominal muscles.
Warrior Pose II
With this pose, you’ll hold your legs in position as with the first warrior pose, but the arms will move out to your sides, stretched out at shoulder height in opposite ways away from your body.
Kids will like the feeling of pretending they are on a surfboard trying to maintain their balance. This pose is good for your legs and arms.
Your Turn Mama
If you are looking for a great way to improve your child’s physical fitness while giving their minds a chance to expand as well, yoga might be the answer.
It will help with every area of their life and it might be an activity you enjoy together. It’ll be nice to pose together for something other than just family photos.
Have you introduced your child to yoga or are you a practitioner yourself? Share your best yoga tips with our readers by leaving a comment!
P.S. To learn more about the benefits of yoga, check out this book by Jennie Lee - TRUE YOGA: Practicing with the Yoga Sutras for Happiness and Spiritual Fulfillment