Yoga has so many benefits—from relaxation and stress reduction to building mental and physical strength. If you’ve made yoga a part of your life, you probably want to pass along the many benefits to your children. But how can you get these busy little people to stop moving long enough to engage in a downward dog and some deep breathing? Here are five ways to make the experience fun and relevant to your child, so that you’ll soon have a yoga buddy breathing beside you in mountain pose.
1. bring your practice into the open
Kids are naturally curious about their parents’ activities. What better way to introduce yoga to your little ones than to meditate or assume your favorite poses in the living room? According to the online yoga source Yoga Journal, if you practice in full view of your kids, they are likely to express interest, ask questions, and even come join you. More importantly, they’ll see yoga as a positive experience and a part of day-to-day life. So, when you come home from a stressful day of work, whether at an accounting office or a holistic drug recovery center, light some candles, toss your yoga mat on the living room floor, and lose yourself in happy baby pose – and, hopefully, the company of your happy yogis-to-be.
2. keep it simple
To foster a love of yoga and avoid frustration, choose poses that your child will be able to do without too much effort. Start with simple poses like downward dog or tree pose to help them build confidence and an understanding of how yoga works. Then, introduce other simple poses that are particularly good for children’s bodies and minds. One example is the sandwich pose, which is ideal for restless or anxious children, calming their nerves and promoting concentration. Kids begin in a seated position with their legs stretched straight in front of them. When they inhale, they reach their arms to the sky. On the exhale, they should bend forward from the hips to touch their hands to their shins or feet to create a “sandwich.” Other simple activities kids can enjoy include breathing or chanting.
3. let them express themselves
To encourage your children in their exploration of yoga, allow them to create an altar or special space for practicing. They can use anything that’s special to them, whether it’s a favorite blanket, a beloved stuffed animal, or a special leaf they discovered outside. To make the yoga experience something special you share, create a sacred space together by choosing objects that have special meaning to the two of you, lighting candles together, or choosing music that resonates with you both. Also, don’t be dogmatic about the poses or mantras you include in your practice. If your children have certain poses they love, or a chant or mantra that speaks to them, by all means include these in your practice.
4. tell it in a story
To teach your children about yoga, find books specially created for children on the subject. Toddlers in particular will appreciate seeing pictures of yoga poses as they attempt to follow your lead. To make the experience more playful, read a story featuring animals; when you get to a part about a particular animal, such as a snake or a cat, do the corresponding pose. You can also take turns making up animal stories and incorporating the poses. Anything that encourages your children to be creative and have fun with yoga will keep them interested and coming back for more.
If your children find yoga poses to be too challenging and get frustrated, try stripping things down to the basics. Focusing on the breath is an important exercise in mindfulness and can improve focus, discipline and concentration. And, best of all, it’s simple to do. However, don’t expect your kids to sit there quietly breathing for a half hour at a time. Even getting them to focus on their breath for a few minutes at a time can have a calming effect. To make this a bonding experience, have your child sit on your lap as you breathe together. You can add a chant, or encourage your child to silently repeat a mantra when exhaling if she chooses.
Practicing yoga together can be a great way for you and your kids to connect while calming your minds and strengthening your bodies. The most important thing to remember when trying to engage your children in yoga is to have fun and let them take the lead. By allowing them to be creative and find poses and mantras that speak to them, you will encourage a lifelong appreciation for this healthy practice that will allow them t