Imagine a children’s yoga class to be fun, exciting, informative, interactive, and safe while wrapped in fitness, cardio, strength, flexibility,
balance, and body awareness! Besides creative group play, we also work on yoga postures, partner poses, breathing exercises, relaxation, and if time allows an art activity and storytelling. In today’s society children are being raised to flourish, be unique, successful, recognized, popular and loved.
The pressures of their day-to-day lives are overwhelming. These tensions may include: pressures at school academically, demands at competitive sports, worries at extra curricular activities; preoccupied/busy parents and siblings; social anxieties of fitting in at school, the mall, the bus, after school activities, church, snap chat, social media, etc.; and community animosities of sex, race, social status, beliefs. We often don’t think of these as stressors to our kids but they can obstruct them from handling stress through positive actions as they grow and prepare to be an adult. Children’s yoga classes are broken into age groups based on their learning comprehension and body development.
Postnatal yoga is started after 6-8 weeks of giving birth and both mom and her baby can attend. This is especially healthy for the mom while the new born is placed on a blanket or a large pillow.
Next, starting at age three to kindergarten, classes are 30 minutes in length and taught with fun interactive nursery rhymes like, ‘Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes’ and ‘Row, row, row, your boat gently down the stream’… imagination, excitement, interaction are the main goals, but learning how to rest/mediate for 1 minute is also taught.
The next age group are grades 1-5. Classes are designed for 30 minutes to one hour, with at least a 2-4 minute rest to end the class. Since a child’s brain has the attention span of approximately 20 minutes, a one hour class is broken into three 20-minute segments. One-third of the class involves the teacher demonstrating a pose while the students mirror the teacher. Another third of the class is spent on educational games, partner poses, and group poses. The last segment is a teaching based on a “theme”, involving an open discussion, much like a classroom. The kids stay on their mats and raise their hand to answer questions as a teacher or a selected student writes the answers on a white board. This may lead into an art activity or storytelling to help them understand the theme.
Traditional poses are taught but a few poses have different names. Such as: child’s pose is rock; low lunge is dragon; locust is shark, superman, and super-girl; goddess is frog; wide-angle forward fold is folding star; etc. Also to develop speech and the use of the their tongue, grades 5 and under appreciate mimicking the sound of the pose. For cat and cow, we will ‘mooo’ like a baby cow and ‘meeeoooww’ like a baby cat. Then ‘mooo’ like a mama cow and ‘meeeoooww’ like a mama cat. Downward dog pose we ‘rwooof…’rwooof’ and shake our tail!
The oldest age group are grades 6-12. Classes are held from 30-60 minutes. Here we discuss a theme for 2-5 minutes with classroom rules, practice basic yoga postures, perform one partner pose, and end the class with a 5 minute rest. Usually rest is their favorite posture.
Naomi B., a sixth grader said, “I never get to rest in a day. I am always having to do more and more at school and then at home, so my favorite time in yoga is to stop and rest.”
Newer to children’s yoga is setting up a yoga obstacle course. This is for the children that may enjoy to move around and experience a posture for a few seconds and then go on to the next. Besides yoga postures, an obstacle course can have cardio, strength, and endurance.
Themes taught in children’s yoga classes are…
- Strength – muscles and bones
- Flexibility – muscle and mind
- Mindfulness – eating habits, play, homework
- Self Esteem – grant permission to grow in confidence and self acceptance within their own body and mind
- Self awareness – body, emotions, breath, mind
- Empathy – how to put yourself in someone’s shoes, friends, pets, grandparents, siblings, parents, teachers
- Focus and Concentration – ok to be ‘bored’ and yet be at peace and rest
- Stress Management – breathing exercises to reduce anxiety
- Creativity – inspires them to be free and tap into their own self-expression in a non judgmental environment through art and imagination
- Social Interaction – encourage peer acceptance despite our outward appearance, race, or beliefs
- Gratitude – showing thanks and kindness in the world