Yoga for Kids and for FUN!

In the past few years, I’ve grown to love and cherish a weekly yoga class. I was longtime “aerobics girl” who spent years teaching and taking every “hot” class at the time, from step aerobics, to body pump, to Pilates. I even had some aerobics records back in the day and a worn out Cindy Crawford VHS. Well, I never quite turned into a super model, but I do love exercise and the switch to yoga was not exactly an easy one. I not only had to train by body, but for the first time, had to train my mind. For a mind that seems to goo 100 mph in 5 different directions at any given moment, this was no easy task. It took time and it took help, but with practice, I learned to turn off the continuous to-do list that scrolls through my brain as constant as the ticker at the bottom of the ESPN screen that runs pretty continuously in our house! I learned to center my thoughts and actually – be still, and be (gasp) quiet! Ironically, that silence has helped be hear some pretty important things. 

When I became interested in yoga for myself, I wanted to share my new love with my other loves – my daughters and my patients. So, I took a continuing education course titled, “Integrating Yoga Into Your Pediatric Practice.” It was right up my alley. The pamphlet said to come barefoot, in yoga pants, and with a mat — my kind of CE course! We spent all day doing yoga that would appeal to children and learning how to incorporate this with a purpose. It was so fun!

Did you know that besides increasing flexibility and strength, yoga can improve body awareness, posture, motor coordination, concentration, digestion, circulation, mood, self esteem, and sensory regulation? Who would not want that for themselves or their kids? Plus, as winter approaches and more time is spent indoors this is something you can do with your children that can benefit all of you.

One of my daughters’ favorites is to do poses that are animals. Here’s a few to share.  Add the corresponding sounds for fun!

Down Dog
Up Dog
Down Gorilla
Up Gorilla
Cow

Cat

Rabbit
Horse

Lion

Camel
Elephant


Butterfly
Sleepy Bear
Bear

Crouching tiger
Lunging tiger
Spider

In addition, yoga focuses on breath. I was shocked as a newcomer to yoga how much simple breathing can calm you down. At times my kids roll their eyes, but when they get upset, they’ll hear me say “Smell the flowers, blow out the candles.” Inhaling and bringing their fingers to their nose, and the exhaling and leaning forward repetitively helps them focus and calm down.

Smell the Flowers
Blow out your candles!

You can also have them lay down and breath deeply using a feather or a balloon to give them a visual target to move with their breath.

The teacher of the course suggested “story book yoga.” This means that you take a favorite story book and use the pictures in it to inspire yoga poses. I did this once with my daughter’s preschool class and they loved it! Great books to try it out with are any of the Eric Carle favorites. 

Meditation was always the hardest part of my yoga class at first. Being still doesn’t come naturally to me. On a few  occasions when my children have been really stressed, I’ve gone as far as trying the techniques I’ve learned in class on them.  I have to say, they were either successful (or my kids thought I was losing my mind), but they enjoyed a candle and some rain sounds on the I-pod while lying down and breathing!

You can find lots of information on yoga for kids on the internet. We enjoy:

angelbearyoga.com

http://www.calmingkidsyoga.org/

http://www.lazylizardsyoga.com/ (they have super cool mats for kids too)

So the next rainy (or snowy) day that comes your way, consider getting active through yoga with your kids! You might feel silly at first, but I promise that the feeling of silliness is quickly replaced by belly laughs and fun. Namaste!

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