Yoga has been used in classrooms to help children focus and in hospitals to help children heal. But beyond its therapeutic applications, yoga is pretty fun. Kids dig it. After all, what kind of child doesn’t want to get all bendy on the floor? Strange positions and movements are a way of life to little kids who are just learning what their frames and muscles can do. Throw in a parent who wants to twist themselves into shapes that have funny names, and you’ve entered kid Nirvana.
That’s why it’s time for you to introduce your son or daughter to kids yoga.
“It’s about meeting the kid where they are,” says Jennifer Coulombe, certified kids yoga instructor and founder of Sat Nam babe. “For example, you likely wouldn’t have an hour long class for a 2-year-old, but giving them 20 minutes can absolutely work.”
Coulombe notes that a little yoga practice at home can go a long way. That’s because the poses can help kids stretch their bodies and use their muscles in novel ways. Adding some intentional breath and mindfulness practice helps kids tackle both the physical and emotional hurdles in their daily lives. The stretching keeps them limber. The breathing keeps them calm. “Yoga for children has a slew of benefits, such as improved self-esteem, improved concentration,” says Coulombe. “It provides kids with a toolkit to draw from to reduce anxiety when they feel stressed.”
And yoga doesn’t have to be spiritual, Coulombe adds. Public schools have recently adapted yoga for the classroom and, because school districts have to obey specific rules about religion in an educational setting, they have managed to secularize yoga without robbing it of its benefits.
The beauty of yoga for the entire family is that it’s a fun physical activity that parents and kids can do together without any special equipment, aside from comfy clothes and maybe a yoga mat. Beginning poses aren’t hard to get into. No need for anyone to get their ankles behind their heads.
The cow and cat poses, for instance, are a great way to start. To try this pose, get on your hands and knees and then lower your belly to the ground while pushing your chest out and raising your head to the sky (if you look something like a cow arching its back, you’re on the right track). Then transition to the cat pose by lifting your belly, dipping your head, and arching your back in the other direction. As you shift between poses, have some fun with it. Moo for the cow pose and meow for the cat.
Children’s yoga instructor and Founder of Passion Fit Reena Vokoun notes that yoga is full of easy poses. “Sticking to simple and child-friendly poses such as downward dog, cat stretch, butterfly pose, tree pose, and mountain pose works well,” she says. “You can even create picture signs to go along with the poses or make the animal sounds with the children while doing the poses.”
But Vokoun cautions that yoga can, in rare cases, be dangerous for some children. She advises that parents display constant vigilance when working out with their kids. “Always be sure to check with a child’s pediatrician if there are any health concerns or injuries,” she says. “However, overall, yoga for toddlers is a wonderful idea and can provide lifelong benefits as children grow up.”