Yoga for adults and yoga for children offer many of the same components: asanas (poses), pranayama (breath work) to enhance strength and flexibility. However, the context of the practice is different. Yoga for children is all about play, fun, imagination and story.
Practicing yoga with children can help reignite your inner child and connect you with your creativity. Almost any children’s storybook can become the framework for a delightful yoga practice with kids. Before you get started, read through the story or book yourself. Think about what sorts of poses you already know that would tell the story through movement as well as words. Don’t create a sequence before you begin with the children. You will then have the lovely experience of being invited into their creative and captivating minds.
I love to explain to first time kid yogis and yoginis about the word yoga and how it means to connect or bring together. Be creative in the ways you choose to explain the concept of connecting breath and movement, mind and body. Beginning a play yoga session with the same poses can help the child understand the body-mind connection. I use the phrase “doing the same poses at the beginning helps your body remember it’s time for fun with yoga.” I like using child’s pose, down dog and big toe ending up in mountain.
Now begin the story… it doesn’t have to be a book, it can be a story you and the child create about a day in the park, a visit to a farm, animals in Africa. Many yoga asanas have animal/fanciful names because many were created for eleven year old boys who were beginning to learn how to prepare for meditation. Children love the silliness of the names. Laughter and joy are a vital part of yoga play.
Don’t feel constrained to use the “official” yoga poses. With the children you can be creative. One group I worked with wanted to create a shark; we did side plank and folded our upper arms at the elbow to create a fin. The more the child creates the play, the more engaged they become.
If doing yoga with your children interests you, please contact Sandi Hoover at The Family Tree at firstname.lastname@example.org. With enough interest, The Family Tree will host a workshop for parents about doing yoga with kids.
The web is filled with wonderful resources for doing yoga with children. Here are three resources that I find helpful: (If you subscribe to Yoga Kids, you will receive a pose a week with information about connecting through the pose to other learning opportunities.)
Yoga Kids: http://yogakids.com/
Kids Yoga Poses: http://www.namastekid.com/learn/kids-yoga-poses/
Bug Yoga: Kids Yoga Poses: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mUwHJpDvWE