The profound physical benefits of yoga are nothing compared with the mind, body, and spirit harmony that habitual yoga practitioners claim to achieve. There is no reason that these physical and mental benefits should be provided to adults only! Teaching your child some simple yoga poses can help him build coordination, flexibility, and endurance. With some steady practice, he will probably begin to see it as a calming, stress-relieving practice that may even sharpen his focus in school!
What You Do:
- Explain to your children about yoga and how people around the world have practiced it for generations. Tell him that certain poses may challenge his balance, while others may demand a constant flow of movement.
- Your child should remove his shoes and socks. He can begin by kneeling, or sitting cross-legged on the floor.
- Model yoga breathing for him by inhaling slowly through the nose and then exhaling deeply through the nose. This technique may seem odd at first, so encourage him to practice breathing for a minute or two.
- Have your child stand and inhale, and then bring his arms upward and exhale, while bringing his arms down. A good exercise is to pretend that he is picking apples, stretching up from side to side to pick them off the tree, and then stretching downward from side to side to place them in a basket.
- Tell him to imagine that he is now the apple tree, to lead him into a beginning tree pose. Have him stand with one leg raised and placed against the other leg, either below or above the knee. Encourage him to stretch his arms outward and then to bring them upward, keeping balance.
- Encourage him to stretch out his body by getting into a cat pose. Have him go down on all fours, letting his back fall curve downward. He can then flow into arching his back upward, shifting from one extreme to the other.
- From here, you can move children to child's pose, kneeling with face down on the mat, hands stretched behind.
- After going through this relaxation pose, he may want to move into a lying down position. Lead him through a progressive relaxation, such as tensing and releasing muscles, listening to music, or having a guided visualization that you talk him through.
Encouraging your child's regular practice is a fantastic way to promote mind and body discipline, as well as positive habit-formation. From this introduction, you can add more advanced poses and relaxation techniques! Try looking up children's yoga classes in your area to receive guidance for new and different techniques.
Serena Makofsky has a multiple subjects teaching credential with an emphasis in cross-cultural instruction. She taught in inner city classrooms for many years. She also writes curriculum for English language learners.