By Faye Martins
Children’s yoga classes are a wonderful way to introduce kids to yoga poses, breathing, and philosophies. Classes can easily be modified to suit many different ages, from babies to tweens. Children can begin to feel the positive results of a yoga class, making them more likely to choose yoga as a lifelong activity. There are many different ways to keep children engaged and interested in the class. Yoga instructors can build a class around an animal theme, encouraging the children to voice animal sounds, make a game out of the poses, or create an interactive story with yoga poses incorporated throughout.
Always begin with a warm-up to get the blood flowing throughout the entire body, and to focus the mind. Develop the warm-up sequence based on the age of the children. For example, toddlers will need a series of quick, active poses. Ask them to take one or two deep breaths in, filling up their bellies like balloons, then push the air out. Older students can spend a few more minutes with focused breathing. Teach them one technique each class, such as Alternate Nostril Breathing, Lion’s Breath, or Ocean Breath. To encourage body- and self-awareness, ask children to feel the air filling up their lungs as they pull it into their body, and to feel it escaping as they push it out.
After breathing, warm up the body with a variation of the sun salutation, forward bend, or another pose that incorporates the entire body. Then you can progress to the next series of poses beginning from a seated position. Begin with the Butterfly, Cobra, Head-to-Knee, Cat-Cow, or the Bridge. Choose poses that flow easily from one to the next. After the seated poses, move to standing poses like Tree, Downward Dog, Mountain, Triangle, or Warrior.
If possible, incorporate some movement around the room during the middle of the series. Children can go from mat to mat, performing a designated pose; or play a game of “Freeze,” where they can dance around the room until the music stops, then freeze in a chosen pose until the music begins again. Keep children engaged, changing the routine as necessary if they become disinterested.
Conclude with a few relaxing floor poses, which allow kids to still the mind and the body. Corpse pose is a classic end-of-class pose. Instructors can lead the class in a visualization exercise, asking children to visualize their favorite place, a particular color, or a person they would like to send positive energy to.
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