Thoughts on Yoga for Children
Just click your heels and repeat, “There’s no
place like Om...” This wasn’t Dorothy’s mantra of choice, but it is a
happy and fun coincidence the words Om and home rhyme — especially as we
discuss yoga for children.
We all know and love the story.
After that colorful hot air balloon flies off without Dorothy, the
music stops and the only one-way departure out of Oz is canceled. But
then, with gentle guidance and a simple suggestion from the Good Witch
of the West, Dorothy realizes the truth. She possesses the personal
strength and inner power to deal with her challenges head on, entirely
on her own.
At a very tender age, Dorothy connects and taps
into the immense capacity that resides within her, and she intuitively
knows this energy is available to the Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man too.
She calls upon this force to take her where she wants to go. We all can,
and yoga can aid and support us in the journey--beginning as very young
throughout our lives.
When presented in
child-friendly and fun ways, yoga encourages our first steps toward
self-awareness, self-care, self-esteem, self-understanding, compassion
and health. Because yoga offers wide and deep benefits, it can be
applied in an endless variety of day-to-day situations in our children’s
lives. I find that children naturally understand how to use yoga, and
they can apply it themselves almost as soon as it is introduced to them.
Here are two cases in point:
A young mother came
to me recently and said her three-year-old son had just begun watching
one of the YogaKids DVDs. He had been having a great deal of trouble
sleeping. Without prompting from his mom, he remembered and began
practicing calming poses that he saw on the DVD before bed. He would
excuse himself from the family and say, “I need to go do some yoga so I
can go to sleep.” He would go off to his room and begin doing the poses
to calm and center himself. His sleeping improved immediately.
Another woman, a single mother of two girls, wrote me and told me
she and her children were experiencing a great deal of upheaval in their
lives, including the effects of post-traumatic stress. She and her
children started doing yoga together, which has helped all of them
manage stress and feel better. “Now, when one of us is starting to show
signs of frustration or anger, my eldest will say, ‘Let’s do the Volcano
because that always makes us feel better.”
examples of poses designed just for children. Have fun doing them with
Pose: Hot Air Balloon
When to use: Waking up
How to do: Sit on your heels
and inflate your balloon (your tummy and lungs). Take little sips of
breath, and raise your arms upward little by little until they are over
your head. When you’ve sipped as much air as you can, your balloon is
You and your child can inflate your balloons
together. Time it so you fill up at the same time. Fly around together
in a hot-air-balloon dance and then deflate in a gentle heap. How many
times can you go up, up and away, and come back down?
This pose, for very young children, is a great introduction to
When to use: When you feel
like bursting or exploding, use the volcano to let off steam.
to do: Sit in a chair or stand up. Place your palms together at your
heart center (Namaste pose). Breathe in as you watch your hands rise up
over your head. Breathe out as you explode your arms outward. Make big,
blasting volcano noises. Lower your arms to your sides and return your
hands to the Namaste position. Repeat the sequence several times,
erupting like a volcano.
Benefits: Children learn they can
manage and blow away anger, frustration and yucky feelings by exploding
in this noisy pose. It provides a way for children to release anger in
Pose: Twist and blow
When to use: Before
How to do: Lie on your back, knees bent, and stretch
your arms out to each side, in line with your shoulders, palms up. Drop
your bent knees over to the right and up towards the armpits. Turn your
head to the left as you breathe out with a blowing sound. Breathe in and
bring your knees back to the center and across your belly. Drop your
legs to the left side, turn your head to the right, and breathe out. Do
five continuous rounds. Then relax for at least a minute with your knees
on one side and head rotated in the opposite direction. Change sides
and relax again.
Benefits: Soothes, stretches ds and
intestines an inner massage. The twisting action that takes place
revitalizes the spine while improving the functioning of the digestive
and eliminative systems.
Pose: Polar bear
When to use: To calm
How to do: Begin in heel sitting pose. Bend your knees and sit down
on your heels. Angle your toes toward each other and your heels away
from each other. Open your knees wide apart, toes touching behind you.
Bend forward at the hips and slide your chest along the floor. Place
your chin on the floor and put your paws over your nose to keep yourself
warm. Breathe in and out.
You can lie in Polar Bear pose
facing your child. Gaze into his/her eyes. Mirror each other and nuzzle
Benefits: Self-care, self-soothing. When you
feel a need to curl up or hibernate.
When to use: Before a test
do: A true warrior is strong without weapons. Begin by jumping your feet
apart. Turn both feet to the right. Try to bend your right knee into a
right angle, so your thigh is almost parallel to the ground--that is, as
level as a tabletop. Stretch out your arms. Turn your head to the
right. Focus at a spot somewhere past your fingers. Say, “I am brave.”
Benefits: Fosters inner strength, determination, focus and
sharpness of mind.
Yoga poses designed just for children
can be helpful before a test, while riding in a car, as a quick
pick-me-up, to unwind or just have fun. When we plant the yoga seeds in
fun and loving ways at an early age, children blossom. I see it happen
before my very eyes each day. I witnessed this amazing unfolding and
development in my own child as well, my daughter Dakota, who was my very
first “Yoga Kid.”
Growing up in a small Midwestern town,
Dakota was often teased about being a flower child. In 6th grade, I
remember her coming home and saying, “Do you know how weird it is that
not just one, but both of my parents are yoga instructors? Why can’t you
do something normal like everyone else?” We laugh about it now, but at
that moment I felt the need to defend, to protect. Yet as I mulled over
her words, I realized she was finding her own way, and I needed to allow
her process — finding herself and her own identity.
is now a beautiful young woman, who brings her friends to adult yoga
classes and teaches YogaKids classes for me when I travel. She and her
friends are excited about the difference that yoga makes for them. Their
track times improve, basketball performances go up and even stresses
about school and relationships are eased. They remember to breathe and
relax. The tools they rely on to surrender and find peace in the present
are deeply ingrained. To this day, they still practice poses they
learned as small children.
Yoga helps our children’s paths
to unfold as they walk, run, sing, leap and play along the way. Reinvest
in a pair of red sparkly shoes for the child(ren) in your life. Help
put them on and watch them skip and dance down the yellow brick road. We
all have magic shoes, dancing feet that can take us up, om and away —
over the rainbow.
Author, teacher and recognized children’s
yoga authority, Marsha Wenig is the founder and creator of YogaKids
International, which offers yoga, fitness and educational products for
children. To learn more or sign up for a free YogaKids Pose of the Week,
visit YogaKids.com or call