Yoga for Kids with Anxiety

girl smiling on yoga mat

During a 900-hour yoga therapy training, I learned many techniques to help adults and kids with anxiety. Over and over again, I would realize that specific yoga tools presented were actually YogaKids poses or techniques. YogaKids founder Marsha Wenig had incredible vision and insight into how to help children, and her program has helped thousands of children and families since she first began teaching over thirty years ago. Marsha once shared with me that she met with a gifted intuitive who told her she would have thousands of children.  his prediction came to fruition as Marsha has helped so many children and families with her life-changing techniques and tools to move through life with not only ease, but abundant joy.

“I am so stressed” is a common phrase heard daily from kids grade school to college as children deal with demanding schedules, pressure to excel and are bombarded with social media and technology. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that over 30% of adolescents have experienced some kind of anxiety disorder and an estimated 8.3% have had severe impairment. Symptoms and signs of anxiety can include fatigue, muscle tension, sadness, restlessness, loss of interest, agitation, tiredness, feeling nervous, disturbance in sleep or appetite, increased breathing rate, excessive worry and restlessness. Causes of anxiety include: school demands and frustrations, negative thinking, changes in body, problems with friends, not enough sleep, taking on too many activities, unsafe living environment, and past trauma.

Anxiety is closely related to fear which is a response to a perceived or real immediate threat. Anxiety is linked to the fight or flight response which stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Stimulation of the SNS can be constructive such as improving sports or test performance or public speaking. Problems arise when the SNS response is too strong, turned on too easily or not turned off when danger is absent.


Behaviors and Techniques to Decrease Stress

Move or exercise regularly. Exercise helps to release endorphins that reduce feelings of anxiety. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is highest in the morning – so scheduling movement first thing in the morning will help to decrease stress.

Eat regularly. “Hangry” is a new term used to describe what may happen when we are hungry. Children, when hungry, may get agitated or angry. A healthy diet should include fresh foods, warm foods, warm water and little or no stimulants like caffeine — especially in the AM.  Make eating healthy fun! Check out the YogaKids Bendy Blog for fun and easy recipes that your kids will love like snowman skewers. 

Decrease negative self-talk. Negative words have been found to release a stress response. Encourage kids to practice gratitude. A gratitude talk is a great way to end every day, having your kids share or write down experiences from their day that they are thankful for.


YogaKids AM Sequence for Anxiety

This morning sequence starts with energizing poses to discharge anxious energy, and includes a few poses that take a lot of focus to keep students in the present moment. It ends with nurturing calming poses to set them up for a peaceful day.

Volcano – From Mountain pose, bring the fingertips together at the chest. Jump feet apart. With palms together at the heart, breathe in. Watch your hands as you raise them over head. Breathe out as you explode arms outward. Lower arms to your sides and return hands to heart. Erupt and release again and again and make loud volcano sounds.  Repeat at least 4 times.

Brave Warrior (Virabhadrasana II) – Stand with feet wide apart, arms parallel to the floor, and front foot at 90 degrees with knee bent over the ankle. Keep the back foot turned slightly in.  Say, “I am brave!”

Bold Warrior (Virabhadrasana I) – From Brave Warrior, turn your hips toward the front leg, keeping the leg bent. Raise arms straight above the head and say, “I am bold!”

Powerful Warrior (Virabhadrasana III) – From Bold Warrior, shift weight onto the front leg, pick up the back foot and leg and stretch it behind you. Keep both legs as straight and strong as possible. Stretch arms forward and say, “My own power I can hold!” Repeat the Warrior series the opposite side.

Shake Like Jelly – Shake like jelly. Shake all over. Go crazy. Jiggle, wiggle, and giggle.

Ragdoll Ann and Ragdoll Andy – Hang out in a forward bend. Breathe in and feel your whole body lighten. Breathe out and fold yourself in half, bending from the hips. Loosen your neck and let your head and arms hang down. To come up, place your hands on your tailbone and inch your fingers up your spine, feeling the bumpy vertebrae as you slowly straighten back up to standing. Repeat at least 4 times.

Eyes Around the Clock – Imagine a clock hanging in front of your eyes. Move your eyes from 12 to 6 and back to again. Look right to left from 3 to 9 and back. Look diagonally from 1 to 7 and back, then 11 to 5. Now start at twelve o’clock and look at each number around the face of the clock. Then start again at twelve o’clock and move in the opposite direction. Try to keep your head still and move only your eyes.

Child’s Pose – From heel-sitting pose, open knees a little, so the belly relaxes between the thighs. Bend at the hips and fold forward, letting the shoulders drop down and the arms lie back along the sides of the legs with open palms facing upward. Place forehead on the floor.  Rock back and forth. Take at least 5 breaths.

Peace Breath – Close your eyes. Relax your face muscles. Let your skin drape over your bones like a soft blanket. Breathe in. Breathe out and whisper the word “peace.” Do this 3 to 6 times. As you say the word, feel the peace inside you. Send peace to the animals, trees and plants. Send peace to your family and friends. Send peace to countries in the world that are at war. Send peace to all the people you love.

O is for OM – Sing the sound “Ommm.” Feel the Om dance throughout your body and throat, bringing a sense of happiness and peace. Repeat at least 3 times.


YogaKids Bedtime Sequence for Anxiety

This evening sequence releases tension in the spine, calms the nervous system and ends with a gentle technique to leave children feeling focused but very calm.

Sunrise Sunset – From kneeling, interlace the fingers above the head and stretch the palms up.  Exhale and drop your hips to the right as the arms drop left like the sun setting. Inhale and arc the arms overhead like the rising sun and drop them to the right as the hips sit left like the sun setting. Repeat 4 times.

Moo and Meow – From all 4’s, arch the spine to the sky and inhale, exhale and round the back as you meow.  Repeat at least 4 times.

Child’s Pose – From heel Sitting pose, open knees a little, so the belly relaxes between the thighs. Bend at the hips and fold forward, letting the shoulders drop down and the arms lie back along the sides of the legs with open palms facing upward. Place forehead on the floor. Rock back and forth. Take at least 5 breaths.

Swim Ducky Swim – Lie down on your back. Place a rubber ducky on your belly. Breathe gently in (your belly button rises) and out (your belly button sinks down.) Give your ducky a slow and gentle ride with your breathing. Keep the focus on the exhale breath, and try to lengthen it gently. Continue for 2-5 minutes.


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Rainbow Week Day 7

girl meditating

“I am a Rainbow.”

The seventh chakra is the Crown Chakra. It’s violet and reminds us that we are whole, centered beings. It is the acknowledgement and celebration of our connectedness to our higher selves, our world, and the energy that has created everything. An open seventh chakra helps us experience peace, serenity and enlightenment.

Take some time today to celebrate all that you are… a true rainbow! Click here to play the meditation.

Click here to get a coloring page of the Seventh Chakra!

Crown Chakra Coloring Page

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Rainbow Week Day 6

“I am smart.”

The sixth chakra is the Third Eye Chakra. It’s indigo and reminds us to be smart and intuitive. Often described as our “third eye” or our “sixth sense,” the sixth chakra is about acknowledging the truths we perceive separate from our other five senses. An open sixth chakra helps us make wise choices based upon our inner knowing.

Take some time today to reflect on your inner guide. Click here to play the meditation.

Click here to get a coloring page of the Sixth Chakra!

Third Eye Chakra Coloring Page

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Rainbow Week Day 5

Girl Whispering in Boy's Ear

“I am Truthful.”

The fifth chakra is the Throat Chakra. It’s blue and reminds us to be truthful and authentic. It’s easy to do and say what others expect us to do and say. An open fifth chakra is one that inspires us to act in a way that in accordance with what is in our hearts.

Take some time today to reflect on your highest truths. Click here to play the meditation.

Click here to get a coloring page of the Fifth Chakra!

Throat Chakra Coloring Page

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Rainbow Week Day 4

“I am Loving.”

The fourth chakra is the Heart Chakra. It’s green and reminds us to be loving. It can be so easy to get awash in bad feelings — like anger, jealousy and fear. An open fourth chakra can replace these negative emotions with compassion and kindness.

Take some today to wrap yourself and others in love. Click here to play the meditation.

Click here to get a coloring page of the Fourth Chakra!

Heart Chakra Coloring Page

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Rainbow Week Day 3

girl in crow pose

“I am Strong”

The third chakra is the Solar Plexus Chakra. It’s yellow and reminds us to be strong. Life has a lot of challenges (especially for kids!) — but we can meet them when our self-confidence is high and our personal power is feeling strong. A healthy third chakra also means feeling purposeful, capable, and motivated.

Take some time today to acknowledge your personal power! Click here to play the meditation.

Click here to get a coloring page of the Third Chakra!

Solar Plexus Coloring Page

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Rainbow Week Day 2

child with eyes closed

“I am Happy”

The second chakra is the Sacral Chakra. It’s orange and reminds us to be joyful and aware of the pleasures of life. Life is filled with pleasures! Good food, love, belly laughs, and so much more! Feelings of pleasure also help us to open up our creative spirits.

Take some time today to experience the pleasures of your life. Take some time to create, play, laugh and enjoy all the wonders of the world. Click here to play the meditation.

Click here to get a coloring page of the Second Chakra!

Sacral Chakra Coloring Page

Don’t miss our Holiday Deals on toys and games your YogaKids will love!

Rainbow Week Day 1

rainbow with tree

“I am Grounded”

The first chakra is the Root Chakra and is associated with the color red. Like the roots of a tree, this chakra grounds us and supports us in everything we do. When the first chakra is open, we feel grounded, stable, secure and healthy.

Today, focus on your own roots and the feeling of being safe and loved. Click here to play the meditation.

Click here to get a coloring page of the First Chakra!

Root Chakra Coloring Page

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Exploring Ahimsa

Ahimsa craft

This YogaKids lesson plan teaches about ahimsa, one of the yamas of yoga philosophy. Ahimsa is the first of the 10 yamas and is often translated as “non-violence” but also stands for living a life of kindness and compassion – for yourself, others, and the world around you. Explore this ahimsa with your students using this engaging and delightful lesson plan.


7-11, 12+


  • Ahimsa wheel*
  • Markers
  • Tape
  • Music

*Cut cardboard into a large circle and cut the circle into even pieces of a pie.  Each student will need one pie slice. So, if you have 8 students, cut into 8 equal slices. Number the backs so you know how to arrange the pieces back into the circle.)                                                .


Students will explore one of the yamas, ahimsa, which means compassion or non-violence. Lesson will include teachings on being compassionate to oneself, fellow students, fellow humans, animals and the earth.


In yoga, we recognize 8 limbs, or tools.  We all think of yoga as yoga poses, but the poses (asana) are only one limb of yoga.  The 8 limbs are: 

  • Yamas – moral restraints
  • Niyamas – moral observances
  • Asana – yoga postures
  • Pranayama – mindful breathing
  • Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses
  • Dharana – concentration
  • Dhyana – meditation
  • Samadhi – bliss

The very first limb is the yamas, of which there are 5. The very first yama is ahimsa which means compassion or non-violence.  Nonviolence is so valued it stands at the very core and foundation of yoga. Please share ideas for living life with compassion, with. acts of kindness, kind words, or kind thoughts.


Name Game – Come up with a yoga pose that starts with the first letter of each student and practice that pose.  Example:  Marsha Moo and Meow, Don Down Diggity Doggie Down. Laughing Language


Sunrise/Sunset – We are happier when the sun is out.

Sit on your heels. Open and close your wings several times. Then open your wings and interlace
your fingers above your head. Stretch your arms up as you lift your buttocks off your heels with
an inhalation. Exhale and drop your hips to the right as the arms drop left like the setting sun.
Inhale and arch your arms overhead like the rising sun. Then, drop your arms to the right as the
hips drop left. Repeat.

Reach for the Sun – The sun is a symbol of power, growth, health, passion.

Begin in Open Mountain pose. Breathe in and reach up high with an outstretched hand. Grab
a piece of sunshine and pull the power into your solar plexus, your inner sun. Exhale with a
“HAH” breath. Repeat with the other arm. Alternately reach with the left and right arms. As you
practice, increase the force of your breath.

Group TreeHow can we be kind to trees?

Stand in a circle. Begin in Mountain Pose. Lift one foot and press your foot against the inside of your other leg. You can use your hand to place your foot anywhere between your ankle and inner thigh. Avoid the knee joint. As your balance gets stronger, you’ll be able to raise your foot higher up your leg. Bring your hands to your chest, palms together in Namaste position. Then raise your arms
up above your head. Touch hands with around the circle. Balance and breathe. Now repeat on the other side.

Elephant – Elephants re compassionate; they have even been seen using their tusks to pick up a fellow elephant that is injured.

Make a trunk with your arms and interlaced fingers. Swing your trunk. Dip your trunk into
the river and throw it back over your head. Spray the other elephants with your trunk.

Dolphin Dolphins have practiced random acts of kindness by rescuing swimmers from hammerhead sharks. A few generous dolphins have even guided stranded whales back to sea.

Begin in All Fours pose. Lower your elbows to the floor. Make sure your knees are under your hips. Grasp your elbows with the opposite fingers to keep proper spacing. Move your lower arms forward, interlacing your fingers, and make a triangle. Breathe in and out, letting your spine lengthen and your tailbone lift up and back. Work your legs as you press your heels towards the floor. Breathe in and out. Move your body forward so your chin touches down in front of your fingers. Then breathe out and lift out of the water.

Moo and Meow – When cows have their best friend with them, their stress levels are reduced compared to when they are with random cows.

Begin in All Fours Pose. Line up your wrists under your shoulders. Spread your fingers wide and arch your spine to the sky. Loosen your neck and drop your head down. Breathe out long as you meow. Now lift your chest forward and look up with big cow eyes. Dip your belly down and tilt your sitting bones up. Your back will sink down like a cow’s. Make cow lips and moo deeply from the back of your throat. Go back and forth, meowing and mooing.

Sun Salutation (any variety) – Play a few fun songs. We thank the sun, and the earth and promise to be compassionate to all living things.  (Suggested songs include Havana by Camila and Brighter than the Sun by Colby Caillat)

There are numerous styles of Sun Salutations. This is one example. Start in Namaste, raising
your arms overhead and stretching upward. Fold forward into Ragdoll pose. Step back with one
leg into a lunge. Step back with the other leg into Lizard pose. Slowly come down to the floor
with your knees, chest and chin. Bring your hips down to the floor, and lift up into S is for Snake
pose. Curl your toes under and stretch into Down Doggity Doggy Down pose. Repeat, beginning
with the opposite leg and finishing in Namaste.

Partner Poses Explore ahimsa with partner poses.

  • Standing Partner Stretch

With a partner, stand back-to-back in Mountain pose. Both partners take one “baby step”
forward. Reach back and take hold of each other’s hands or wrists. Keep your feet rooted to the
floor. Lean gently away from each other, as you stretch your chests and shoulders. Come back
to center and release your hands.

  • Partner Boat

Begin in L-Sitting pose and across from a partner. Place both hands, palms down, alongside your hips. Lengthen your arms and spine. Lean back and lift your legs up. Balance. Stretch your arms forward, palms up. Breathe in and out. Row your arms forward. Reverse, and row your arms backward.

  • See Saw

Face your partner with your legs open in straddle splits. Keep your sitting bones planted in the
earth. Reach your arms straight across to your partner and take hold of each other’s wrists or
hands. As one person bends forward at the hip hinge, the other leans back and gently guides
their partner’s upper body forward. After a few breaths, switch the person being pulled forward
and the person leaning back. Gently rock each other back and forth, like a seesaw.

  • Sit and Twist

Sit cross-legged in front of your partner with your four knees touching. Put your right arm
behind your back, reach out with your left hand, and grab your partner’s right hand. Breathe in
and sit up tall. Breathe out as you turn away from your partner, twisting your spine, and looking
over your shoulder. When you twist, rotate your spine gradually from the tip of your tailbone to
the top of your head. Inhale as you lengthen your spine and exhale as you twist. Continue to sit
and twist. Then change sides.

  • Rib-Splitting Seated Triangle

Face your partner with your legs open in straddle splits. Firmly plant your sit bones into the
earth. Reach across and take hold of your partner’s hand or wrists. Lift your other arm up
above your head and over to the side as you stretch all the way through the fingertips. Feel
the spaces created between the ribs. Come back to center and change sides.

Group Poses

  • Electric Circle

This pose is done with at least three people. Sit cross-legged with your hands on your knees.
The left hand rests palm up, and the right hand rests palm-down. Breathe deeply into your heart
space at the center of your chest. Feel the breath move across your chest, flow down your arms
and into the hands that you are holding. You might feel or hear tingling. Whenever you feel this
electricity, gently squeeze the hands you are holding. That is the signal to let each other know
that the circuit has been made and the current is flowing. With your lips closed and your tongue
curled upward to touch the roof of your mouth, start humming or buzzing to imitate the sound
of electricity. Get louder and louder, then break the circuit by letting go of each other’s hands.
Sit quiet and listen to the silence.

  • Circle of Friendship Flowers

Kneel in a circle, holding hands. As you inhale, reach your arms up, lift your buttocks off your heels, and stretch back arching your back and neck. As you exhale, continue to hold hands and fold down into Child’s Pose. Repeat a few times imagining all the different flowers that you could be.

Visual Vignette – Create an ahimsa wheel. Have each student draw their expression of ahimsa on one piece of the circle, then tape the circle together and rejoice in the finished product.

Quiet Quests – Guided Meditation with Bhavana

Lie comfortably and notice your breath. Think of a place of beauty in nature. It can be a place you have visited or a place you have only dreamed about. Can be your own back yard, a lush green forest or a soft sand beach with aqua blue waves moving slowly in and out. Imagine yourself in this place feeling completely safe and content. Feel you belly gently rise and fall. Bring your attention to your feet and imagine bathing your feet in the Divine love and notice how that feels. Move your attention up to your lower legs and bathe them in love. Then the upper legs, bathe them in Divine love. Bathe the pelvis and hips in love and notice how that feels. Bring your attention to the belly and again feel it gently rise and fall in a soft nurturing way.

Bathe the belly in love. Bring awareness to the heart and feel a softening, a gentle grace, wrap the heart in love. Feel the throat, and cultivate a spaciousness at the throat, feel the throat washed in love. Move up to the third eye and notice how that feels Feel a soft caressing at the third eye of the Divine’s loving attention. Bring your awareness to the crown and feel a sense of radiant warmth. Feel love moving in on each inhale and growing in intensity with each exhale, filling every space of your being. <long pause 5-10 minutes)

To forgive, we need to feel that we are loved, we don’t want a feeling of lack. This meditation will cultivate self-love and the practitioner won’t need to seek love from other people, Divine love — which we feel when we practice ahimsa — is enough.

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Acceptance and Letting Go

Woman Meditating on Beach

“Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.”

– Eckhart Tolle

Life with bipolar disorder combined with ADHD is an interesting adventure—but teaching kids yoga has made it a much more bearable one. I realized that I have a knack for teaching at my very first career as a computer programmer. Instead of enjoying writing and debugging code like most programmers, my favorite work time activities were writing and correcting documentation, and helping the new people understand our system. (Ask any programmer what they think about writing documentation. You rarely will hear enthusiasm at the prospect!)

Following that career, I took a 5-year vacation from working life to have my first child and to be introduced to my new life companion: bipolar disorder. After a month of getting to know it at a psychiatrist hospital in New York City, I decided I decided I didn’t much like my new companion. (They say it takes about ten years for bipolar patients to accept their diagnoses – and this rule held true for me.)

The next ten years were a huge emotional roller coaster. I was on and off my medications, and I was on and off believing that I must live my life with bipolar disorder. During those ten years, I was accumulating all sorts of fears and phobias. Many of them found their niche in my back, causing me to develop debilitating backaches.

The next four years seemed like an unending sequence of acceptance and letting goes as I began regularly practicing hot Bikram yoga. I accepted the bipolar disorder, and miraculously the back pain began to subside. During this time, I also let go of my former jobs. My past environments felt toxic – but the desire to teach was still strong within me. That’s when I discovered YogaKids.

The YogaKids program carried all he answers to my doubts. As I was discovering the principles of YogaKids during my six months of training, I became more and more thrilled.  It incorporated many of the things that I believed in when I was helping children back in my academic jobs. I learned so many new techniques and almost a whole new way of teaching.

I feel the process of accepting and letting go is still just starting for me. For 37 years, I lived a life ruled by disorders. Now I’m on the path towards a new way of life ruled by me. And I attribute this major shift in my life to yoga…. both as a lifelong yoga student and as a newly certified YogaKids instructor.