When most people think of yoga, they probably picture relaxation, calm, silence, slow movements, and yes, for the most part they are correct. But when it comes to teaching yoga to kids (toddlers to slightly older), this may be far from true.
I’ve been passionate about yoga for 9 years now, and more recently made my practice part of my daily life. In doing so, I’ve had the opportunity to introduce this amazing practice to my son, who’s now almost 3. It began when I decided to get in my daily practice, in our living room while he played with his toys. This, as you can imagine, lasted about 1-2 minutes, give or take, before he was diving on my mat, rolling around, and trying to imitate me. But, rather than rolling up my mat and ending my practice for the day, I laid out a mat of his own for him to join me (don’t worry-I wasn’t running out to get him a LuLu mat, he rocks a flimsy blue mat I found in the closet that most likely came free with my balance ball and it suits him just fine). Nevertheless, he thought it was the coolest thing. So, we started small that day. Teaching him down dog (every kids favorite), three-legged dog where he’d wag his “tail” and bark, tree pose, where we’d balance together until the “wind blew us over” and we crashed to the ground-noisy and messy to say the least, everything yoga is said to not be. But it worked.
When introducing a child this young to yoga, the last thing you want is to expect them to be silent, in perfect alignment, or to last longer than a few minutes in certain poses or activities. It is all about the experience. Getting them to have fun with poses, and moving from one activity to the next to keep them interested.
I recently began teaching yoga classes to preschoolers, and have used the same techniques with them, that I use with my son. They learn poses, but play games like red light green light or musical mats to incorporate them. We do fun breathing exercises like Lion’s Breath, and Balloon Breath. And some days, we craft or color Mandalas, and truly do find a sense of calm and concentration in our practice. But the best part about it, is seeing the same kids the next class and finding how receptive they been to yoga; showing me the poses they’ve learned, and how they’ve practiced them at home, or begging me to let them practice “mindful breathing” with different games we’ve done. It’s truly amazing.
So just when you thought your child may be to young to start yoga, think again. From my own personal experience, the younger the better. Start small and grow with them from there. Utilize books, games, Yoga Pretzels, partner poses, and whatever else you can find to make it fun, because at this age that’s what yoga is about.
As for me, I now practice yoga with my son everyday. Some days ten minutes, some days only two. Sometimes it’s him begging to learn more poses, sometimes it just consists of him rolling his mat up, and back out, up and back out, up and….well you get the picture. But no matter what the length of time, I know that he is benefiting from something amazing, and I can only hope the passion he has for yoga now will grow with him, so he can feel the way I do about it one day.
If you are looking for more ideas/ways to introduce your child to yoga, TOTasana (parent/child) yoga will be offered again this summer, or feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for some tips and tricks!