Little yogis say namaste! Children derive enormous benefits from yoga. Physically, it enhances their flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness. In addition, their concentration and sense of calmness and relaxation improves. Doing yoga, children exercise, play, connect more deeply with the inner self, and develop an intimate relationship with the natural world that surrounds them. Yoga brings that marvelous inner light that all children have to the surface.
Whether you are sharing yoga with your kids at home, teaching a yoga class for kids, or taking a break in the classroom, these 5 tips will help you facilitate a restful and rejuvenating experience for your children. You will find that once it becomes familiar, the children will ask for it often.
- Let them choose their position. Lying spread out on the back can feel vulnerable and awkward. Children are often more comfortable lying on their side or stomach. This helps them feel grounded and limits their sensory input. Over time kids will get comfortable in the classic posture, but let them find it for themselves. In a school classroom, where space is at a premium, simply have the children sit in their chairs or up against the wall.
- Create quiet conditions. Dim the lights, reduce sounds as much as possible, and give each child a blanket. The weight of the blanket is soothing to the nervous system and muffles sensory input to the skin. Eye pillows are also nice. The kids may fidget with them or place them on their tummy—that’s fine. Some kids need a fidget toy to help quiet their mind.
- Relax the body. It’s hard to be still when there is frenetic energy in the body. A strong yoga practice is the best prerequisite for deep rest. Another technique is to have children pretend they are a dead bug: “Lie on your back with your legs and arms in the air. First slowly wiggle and then shake your limbs like a bug on its last legs. Then flop—let your arms and legs fall to the ground.” Children find this hilarious and it helps quiet the body.
- Relax the mind with a story. Leaving a kid to lie still with no guidance is unlikely to evoke deep rest. Guided visualizations are wonderful for children, as these engage their mind in a soft and soothing way.
- Check your expectations. This is perhaps the most important part. Set your expectations for a positive outcome. Beliefs and intentions have significant impact on our experience. If you think the kids are squirrelly and won’t relax, you’re right. If you think the kids are developing a life skill that will serve them well over the years and they just need some guidance and time to become familiar with it, you’re right. It’s very helpful to sit down and get quiet yourself. Allow the experience of stillness and peace to flood your awareness, and notice how that affects the children. Set your expectations for a positive outcome. Beliefs and intentions have significant impact on our experience.