A beginner’s guide to: Children’s yoga
Keeping children occupied can be a tricky one, particularly in the current situation. Yoga is a great way to help children keep fit, reduce anxiety and have fun.
By Hannah Bullimore
Children’s yoga usually looks quite different to adult yoga, particularly for children below the age of 11. I am a vinyasa and children’s yoga teacher and have a few tips to help you get started. What often works with children is to incorporate stories to help the children feel comfortable practising yoga and to make them feel involved – like they’re the ones in charge!
This guide will help you set up the space for children’s yoga at home, prepare your child for a yoga adventure and offer recommendations for online resources you can use straight away to help your child keep fit and healthy while having fun.
What is children’s yoga?
Children’s yoga is a way to get children moving and keep calm. It includes simple movements that are safe for children to do and it also includes things like breathing techniques to help them reduce anxiety.
A lot of children’s yoga is also story based, this means that the child feels as though they are going on adventure. It also means there is usually a moral or lesson within the story, such as being kind to others.
Children’s yoga doesn’t have any religious or spiritual connotations, although sometimes words like ‘namaste’ are still used. It is a simplified version of adult’s yoga so some of the postures look similar, but there is no pressure for children to look a particular way.
The benefits of yoga for children
Mindfulness is very beneficial to all children as they face the constant changes of growing up. Yoga and mindfulness promotes being peaceful and kind, which are beneficial to everyone of any age. Mindfulness has a positive effect on the brain with studies suggesting it can improve focus and cognitive control, helping with important developmental landmarks including self-regulation, judgment and patience.
These are areas that many children can struggle with and as the current situation continues, helping children to find peace and patience from within can only be a good thing.
Physically, yoga can help children to improve balance, strength and fine-motor skills. It is a form of activity that fits the criteria of the national curriculum which hopes to ensure children are physically active and lead healthy lives.
Therefore, yoga is a fantastic practice for children and their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Setting up a yoga space
Luckily, yoga doesn’t require a lot of space, particularly for little ones. While a yoga mat is a good idea, children can usually manage without. If children are practicing yoga on a hard floor make sure they aren’t wearing socks as they are more likely to slip if they are.
Begin by making sure that the space is as clear as possible, with nothing breakable in easy reach of little arms and legs.
Children should be dressed comfortably, just as they would be dressed for running around having fun or doing PE at school. No fancy sports clothes needed – they could even practice yoga in their pyjamas.
Most online yoga videos include a warm up, but if you’re practicing without one it’s important to make sure little muscles are well warmed up before doing anything that requires a lot of flexibility. This will protect muscles and joints throughout the practice.
In-person classes will sometimes include fun games such as musical statues but using yoga postures when the music stops. You could have a little game of musical statues before starting up your yoga practice to make sure your child is nicely warmed up.
The best way to get children practising yoga safely at home is by using online resources. If you’re living with a teenager they will probably prefer something grown-up, such as a yoga video that you could follow along together such as Yoga With Adriene.
For little ones
The most well-known resource is probably Cosmic Kids. These videos are used in schools around the world to introduce children to story-based yoga. Videos tend to be short and sweet with a variety of adventures and lessons. Perhaps best of all, these videos are completely free! Cosmic Kids videos are perfect for children aged 3-11, although parents will probably find themselves joining in as well while we’re all stuck at home together.
As well as the yoga adventure videos, there is the Zen Den, offering mindfulness and meditation classes. There is also Peace Out which are relaxing guided meditations, Brain Breaks for a short yoga break and yoga games and discos for when children are feeling hyperactive and need to burn off some of that energy.
Unfortunately, many studios offering online classes aren’t currently catering to little ones. However, Yoga Mike is a local children’s yoga teacher offering classes in schools in Teesside and Durham. Yoga Mike TV is a great online platform offering yoga and mindfulness videos for children. The platform works as a monthly subscription but a free trial is available. Schools in the North East have been used to film many of the videos so they create a lovely atmosphere for little ones who are missing school at the moment. Plus, you can support a small local business during this really tricky time.
Yoga is a fantastic way to help children keep active indoors and can also help them manage and understand their emotions and build mental wellbeing. Now, more than ever, children need a way to find a little bit of calm in their day and keep moving while safely inside. Yoga can do all of that and so much more!
About the author
Hannah Bullimore is a yoga teacher and writer from the North East. She teaches writing workshops for all ages and yoga classes for all abilities.
Follow her on Instagram @hannah_bullimorehttps://www.hannahbullimore.com