Teaching Yoga to Tiny Humans
There are several significant differences between a fully mature adult and a developing child. Therefore, a kids’ yoga practice is very different from an adult’s yoga practice.
Getting started with yoga for kids must be a sensitive experience because the tiny human’s brain learns everything through the senses first, and then their cognitive development starts to occur over time.
As your child prepares to meet milestones and learn new things—from identifying colors and shapes to learning about prehistoric dinosaurs in school—adapt yoga sessions to support his developmental needs. Incorporate music, dance, movement, play, and bright, colorful props (like bells and yoga balls) in your yoga practice sessions to provide sensory input and support brain development.
Teaching Yoga to Kids by Age
Toddlers Yoga (1.5 to 2 Years)
Toddlers acquire new skills through visuals and color observation. Verbal instruction is never enough, so it’s vital to do yoga with your toddler that supports all learning styles—visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile.
Following are a few tips to engage a toddler in yoga practice:
- Repetitive and straightforward poses are best for toddlers.
- Songs, music, and lots of movement are great ways to entertain toddlers.
- Use fun and colorful props, such as musical instruments, balls, and silk scarves.
- Introduce basic breathing. Use props like a silk scarf, feather, or cotton ball to demonstrate the movement of breath.
- Make some noise. While teaching tiny humans, say “choo”—or “moo” if you’re a cow. Having fun keeps kids engaged.
- At this age, 15 minutes of yoga every day is enough for your child.
Pre-School Kids Yoga (3 to 5 Years)
As your 3- to 5-year-old’s motor skills are developing, introduce crafts, coloring, and simple hand movements into the yoga poses you practice together.
In the preschool years, gross motor planning and gross motor skills continue to develop. Thus, for 3- to 5-year-old children, achieving body balance is very crucial at this age. Introduce simple balancing yoga poses, such as Tree Pose, often in their practice.
Following are a few tips to engage a pre-schooler kid in yoga practice:
- Using themes and imaginative storytelling. These work well for engaging 3- to 5-year-old kids in yoga practice. For example: In a ‘Shape Yoga Theme’ yoga practice, teach kids different yoga shape poses like – Triangle – Down Dog pose, Rectangle – Plank Pose, or Square – Table Top Pose.
- Teach simple yoga poses and use clear instructions, repeating them as you would for a toddler.
- Allow up to 20 minutes for yoga adventures, 10 minutes for games and songs, and 1 to 2 minutes for relaxation.
Primary-School Kids Yoga (5 to 8 Years)
Between the age of 5 and 8, a child’s motor skills and planning improve. Their verbal processing and the ability to follow instructions and cooperate are greatly expanded at this age.
Also, bilateral integration (the ability to move both sides of the body) is developing. Thus, use stickers on the yoga mat or your child’s hands to help support this.
Following are a few tips to engage a primary-school kid in yoga practice:
- Tap into what your child likes or is keen to learn about —popular characters and stories, sports, dinosaurs, superheroes, state capitals, and so on.
- Mix their likes with yoga and incorporate more focus-based activities and games to help kids find concentration and balance over time.
- Allow up to 30 minutes for yoga adventures, 10 minutes for games, and up to 5 minutes for meditation or relaxation.
Tween Kids Yoga (8 to 12 Years)
During this time, your child is experiencing hormonal changes and fluctuations during this developmental stage. Significant body changes can result in self-conscious behaviour at this age.
So, please be kind, patient, and supportive. Give your tween a choice to opt-out of poses or offer adjustments to make poses more accessible and supported.
Following are a few tips to engage a tween in yoga practice:
- Encourage more extended pose holds and focus on correct alignment.
- Ask permission before making hands-on adjustments.
- Explain how yoga practices support the body and mind. Give examples of how yoga (breathing, meditation, poses, and stretches) can be accessed off the mat—for instance, at school or before an important exam.
- Introduce challenging and strengthening poses to boost confidence. If required, use modifications and props to support gentle stretching.
- Encourage posture awareness and include poses that lengthen the spine and strengthen the core.
- Allow up to 45 minutes for a tween yoga practice, plus at least 15 minutes of deep relaxation and meditation.
Teenage Kids Yoga (13 to 18 Years)
During this period, teens and young adults experience hormonal fluctuations, significant bodily changes, and more growth spurts. Pressure at school can increase due to exams, college applications, decisions, sports, part-time work, etc. A regular yoga practice can help alleviate these stress-causing elements.
Following are a few tips to engage a teenager in yoga practice:
- Teen yoga is much like an adult practice for sensitive adults.
- Nurture teens with patience, kindness, encouragement, and understanding. Introduce your teen to different styles of yoga—basic Hatha stretches, energizing Vinyasa flow, or gentle Restorative yoga—and offer him a choice based on how he is feeling.
- Reserve a large portion of your teen’s practice for restorative yoga and deep relaxation.
- Allow up to 45 minutes to practice yoga, followed by 30 minutes of meditation or deep relaxation.
Note: Tweens and teens tend to be super-sensitive and highly self-conscious; some may try to force themselves into a pose that is not accessible out of fear of being judged.
Before practicing yoga, please communicate with your tween or teen children and remind them that: they need to listen to their bodies and not force themselves.
5 Kids Yoga Teaching Tips
Tip 1: Create mental space and alignment in the body when preparing to enter a yoga pose. And this is only possible by ‘Breathing.’ The breath links the mind to the body; when we breathe consciously, the mind focuses on and controls something occurring within the physical body, so Breath, Breath, and Breath!
Tip 2: If your child loves yoga and you don’t mind investing in her passion, a yoga mat, two yoga blocks, a yoga strap, and a child-sized bolster are great tools to purchase.
Tip 3: Engage your child in her yoga sessions. What do they like? What do they want to do? What did they enjoy last time? Acknowledge what they enjoy by offering it within the practice and also keep introducing new ideas and techniques to build on new skills.
Tip 4: Praise and encourage effort, attentiveness, involvement, and cooperation. Focus on what your child can do rather than what she cannot—praise and reward effort over outcome.
Tip 5: Explain and elaborate how the different poses and activities benefit your child’s body and mind. Always use positive and empowering language rather than forceful language.
5 Health Benefits of Yoga for Kids
1. Physical Development, kids yoga supports rapid growth and body changes and achieves appropriate physical developmental milestones in children by improving their – Cognitive Skills, Posture, Confidence, Sleep Patterns, Sensory Development, Flexibility, and Bilateral Integration.
2. Emotional, Mental, and Social Development, yoga provides your child with the ability to self-soothe by learning breathing, meditation, and relaxation skills; it reduces feelings of stress and anxiety. This helps kids build self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-respect and teaches them – how to practice compassion and mindfulness with themselves and others.
3. Yoga for kids helps in increasing flexibility, strength, muscle tone, mobility, stability, coordination, and balance
4. Reduced symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression by enhancing kids’ focus and concentration.
5. Improves blood circulation all over the body and brain and releases good endorphins all over the body. This will make them happier and more active.
The Key Takeaway
An essential element of teaching yoga to kids is understanding your child’s learning style, whether visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or tactile. The beautiful thing about yoga is that a well-balanced kids’ yoga class incorporates all four learning styles, allowing your child to reap health benefits and grow.
Kids’ yoga can often be loud and silly, barely resembling an adult yoga class. And that’s the point!
Yoga must be presented in a fun and engaging way so that children want to play yoga. If required, rename classic yoga postures to capture your child’s imagination, allowing them to experience yoga as a fun daily activity.
Remember that presence and connection are the heart of yoga, so let go of the concept of teaching your child, jump right in, and enjoy yoga adventures with your child.