I love introducing yoga to children. The younger, the better!
As I use the kind of exercises below, or create my own, I sometimes find myself becoming a kid again :-)
It is SO much fun to teach this age group because they are fast and full of energy, their imagination is wild, and they LOVE playing and moving—the perfect audience for a children yoga class!
Here are the most important things to remember when you teach those free spirits and want to make yoga fun for them!
1. They are fast…very fast
They have infinite amount of energy, but instead of suppressing it, use it! Make the class very active.
It is hard for them to sit quietly or to stay in one pose for a long time, so you will need to let each pose and game flow, one into the other. Don’t hesitate too long between exercises!
If, through games, imagination, and lots of yoga poses, you have succeeded in releasing a bit of their infinite energy, they will be happy to lie down at the end of class, and practice imagery and relaxation.
2. Use their imagination.
A. Going on a yoga journey
We do traveling poses to reach our destination
We meet the people who live there and we do the things they do in yoga (cooking, wood chopping, surfing, dancing…)
We see nature and we imitate the trees, mountains, waves rocks etc. with our bodies (same goes with animals!)
We get hungry so we do a yoga picnic with food poses
We feel like playing so we go to the yoga playground and we do a yoga swing, slide, or carousel
We decide to go to the beach, yoga sunbathe for a bit and meet sea creatures as we go on a yoga boat
At the end we get tired, so we lie down and we use our imagination to journey back (maybe on a flying rug) to where the class is
Children at this age are not always aware of the wonders of the world outside of their country or even neighborhood, I Google and print pictures of wherever we are planning to go on a journey to.
If we’re going to ancient Egypt for example, I will print pictures of pyramids, sphinx, camels and pharaohs to help the children be familiar with this new place.
B. Inventing your own yoga story
You can have each kid invent their own story with yoga animal poses combined into it, or have each participant in the circle continue the story of the one before them,each adding a pose to the story.
Have everyone do the pose the kids mention in their story. You can also stay in the pose once it’s mentioned until another kid says another pose in their part of the storytelling.
C. Yoga Around the Globe
Have each kid in the circle spin the globe in their turn; wherever their finger lands, that’s where you’ll travel with a yoga pose, and then do a couple of poses in that country.
Come dressed up and with the magic of yoga, turn the children into different yoga animals they choose out of the Yoga Magic Sack. You can also let them be the wizards.
E. Sun Dance Story
Tell a story about Yoga Animals and Yoga Objects as you flow through them – it always makes a Sun Salute more interesting!
3. Keep your rules at all cost!
This is the age where we try to find what the boundaries are, so create clear boundaries and keep your rules at all cost.
Keep in mind though that rules are hard to keep so don’t make too many rules, but keep the one rule: RESPECT!Respect can mean anything you need to mean…listening to each other and the teacher, no violence, no put downs, relaxation is a quiet time etc.
Never ever give instructions when no one is listening – always always first gather the children’s attention and only then give instructions.
4. They’re easily distracted.
They have a short attention span, so switch between fast and slow, poses and games and breathing and relaxation.
Every time you change the kind of activity you do, their attention span starts from the beginning. Vary the class structure a bit to keep things interesting! To help the kids focus and stay longer in poses, you can:
Count and sing
Tell interesting animal facts and use sound effects and animal sounds
Say ‘faster/ higher/ more/ one more/ again!’
Animate the poses: lighting candles (in Shoulder Stand) and blowing them out, or watering seeds (Child Pose) and letting them grow into Flower Poses and then into Tree Poses
Facilitate interaction with partner and group poses: chairs and tables, flowers and bees, monkey and trees, etc.
Use props: sliding a ball down a Slide Pose (inclined Plane), balancing a doll on the head or tummy or back, etc.
It’s also a great idea to come to the class dressed up according to the class theme—make it dramatic! You are sure to capture their attention!
5. Change things up
Kids this age easily get bored with repetition, so keep the activities varied!Don’t go on the same yoga journey twice within the same year. You can use some of the same poses, but you will have to wrap them in a different story every time.
Use Your Voice – if you speak in the same tone all the time, the children’s attention will drift away. Sometimes whisper as if you have a secret to tell them, and a moment after, be all hyped up and exited!
Use lots and lots of yoga games! – Try to remember the games you played as a kid and sprinkle yoga poses into them to transform them into yoga games.
Try a Yoga Obstacle Course – place yoga mats in a line or a circle and make each a station to:
Do yoga poses in a certain way or with a particular prop
Do a breathing exercises with a prop you place there
Do something fun such as dancing, skipping rope, face painting etc.
You can also use everything that we had for the previous age group– dolls, puppets, stickers, books, songs, etc.
6. Improved Balance And Motor Skills
Kids this age can play a much wider variety of games and do MANY more poses than the younger age groups.
They can balance by themselves, have more coordination, can stay quiet for longer and understand instructions better—so try to take them to their limit…gradually!Allow them to try and make mistakes, and really in Yoga there is no possibility to make a mistake.
In yoga we say that there are 840 million yoga poses, so every movement, eventually, can be yoga. What makes it yoga of course is awareness, but this will come gradually.
And most importantly; let yourself have fun, and they will too!