What is Yoga for Kids all About?
Yoga for kids is similar to adult yoga in that we do poses and learn meditations, but there is so much more to it! The skills that children are learning in yoga class will be useful throughout their entire life.
Of course the poses stretch and strengthen the body, but we also learn to listen to our bodies. We discuss which muscles are being activated, which poses are harder or easier for different students, and how much strain is ok to put on different parts of the body. Because of this, students are learning to be more body aware. They figure out which of their muscles need an increase in strength and flexibility, and knowing this can reduce their chance of injury while playing sports and throughout life in general.
We also practice a variety of challenging balancing poses – tree, warrior 3, half moon, and of course, headstands…which all of the kids LOVE! Balancing poses help to increase concentration and focus, and mastering difficult poses leads to an increase in self- esteem. AND, we make the physical poses more fun by incorporating them into games. We play yoga memory, yoga Jenga, and musical mats. We do relays, play freeze dance, go on pretend yoga journeys, and play yoga BINGO…just to name a few! There are actually so many more activities I have in my curriculum to make poses and movement more engaging. And since I’ve had some of the same students for 3, 4, or 5 years, I need variety to keep them entertained!
The Mindfulness Aspect is the Most Meaningful
I think the part of yoga class that the kids like the most (maybe even more than the games) are the mindfulness crafts that we complete. I always say that yogis TRY to be kind, grateful, Zen, present, positive, and show empathy. Therefore, I have put together activities to help the kids better understand what these concepts mean and to help them focus on them daily.
We make affirmation cards to ensure that we are kind to ourselves, as well as boost self-esteem. We make glitter jars to assist with meditation at home and keep the kids Zen even outside of yoga class. We make gratitude boxes where kids get to decorate a box and then fill it with all of the things in life they are grateful for. I tell them to pull this out anytime they are having a bad day or feel like they are complaining too much to remind them of all that they have. Other activities include making dream boards, celebration posters, peace rocks, worry dolls, and more.
Aside from the physical poses and specific mindfulness crafts, we also learn 8-10 different breathing techniques over the course of one year in yoga class with me. We talk about when we NEED to use our breath and when we just WANT to meditate. For example, I might ask the kids to tell me about some things that make them frustrated, upset, or angry. After they identify these, which very often include fights with siblings, we talk about breathing techniques, and other activities we can use to help us calm down.
Our meditations are always very short, but it doesn’t take much to alter a physical reaction. We often try to think about nothing while we meditate, but other times we focus on a place that makes us happy or things we are grateful for during meditation. There are literally hundreds of meditation topics, and after a few classes, I start to let the students choose which type of breathing exercise they want to do that day, and what type of meditation we should do as well. This is a skill they will use for the rest of their lives.
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