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July 15, 2014

Why Kids Yoga Isn’t Just a Fad. ~ Whitney Simpson

legs up the wall

Kids Yoga: Is it a Fad?

Whether or not you are a parent, you likely know that the options for extracurricular activities are abundant for our kids today.

As a mom, I have seen first-hand the endless options for sports and clubs compared to when I was a kid. It can be exhausting. And while any yogi knows the benefits of a yoga practice, some admittedly wonder why would you add “one more thing” to the list of options for our “already too busy” children.

Newsflash yogis, practicing yoga is life-giving, no matter your age!

Why else would yogis of all ages, abilities, beliefs, shapes, and sizes continue unrolling their mats?

Yoga is good for our bodies, minds, and our souls.

And with the increased demands of life and many of the distractions we cannot seem to escape, the need for yoga with our children is greater than ever.

Kids today need safe spaces. Kids need movement and mindfulness.

Kids need to learn to breathe and listen to their bodies. Kids need to be valued, learn self-respect, and discover gratitude in life.

I can only imagine how my life may be different if I had learned the life-giving discipline of yoga at a young age. Ready? Grab a mat and let’s discover and share our love and passion for yoga with our future.

I’m often asked what makes a kid’s yoga class different than a traditional yoga class. A few things are different in regards to how we structure the class but one stands out above the rest—make it fun!

Of course, there are many “fun” yoga classes for adults too. Most often, adults unroll their mat and protect their corner of the floor by staking out their space with a water bottle, towel, or other personal items.

In most of the kid classes I teach or co-teach, we set up our mats in a circle for practice together. We get cozy in our space and we always play! We start out letting go of the wiggles with some fun music (stretching and warming up). We then move into a silly game like musical mats, yogi says, or freeze frame (Google them or check out a book at your library, boys and girls love yoga games).

Next up: gratitude!

We explore different ways to share gratitude with one another and nearly every week among the top ranked answers like “I’m thankful for my family or my friends” out comes “I’m thankful for yoga class.”

Yoga is more than postures for these kids. Yoga is a way of thinking, acting, giving thanks, and living life that serve as an invitation to our children both on and off their mats.

While we have plenty of fun in kid’s yoga, breath work and meditation are key.

Relaxation pose is usually mentioned by the kids each week at the end of class as a favorite. Yes, there are a few kids that struggle to be still. However, the majority love the calming music, they actually crave it. We use different poses (legs up the wall) or props (bean bags on their bellies) to keep it fresh and different.

For those that struggle, a light touch or even some calming essential oil settles them onto their mats for a few moments of stillness.

In the early stages of teaching a studio class, I discovered parents returning for pick-up during this relaxation time. We adjusted the class to conclude with a partner pose or entire class pose. Now our little yogis beg to return to Lizard on a Rock or Zipper Pose. Turns out they often share these partner poses with other siblings and their parents during the week (win-win!).

Thinking of sharing the yoga love with the kids in your life?

I suggest reading Yoga for Children by Lisa Flynn.

There are also lots of fun yoga pose cards.One of my favorite decks is Yoga Pretzels by Tara Guber. Kids will enjoy being given a card and working together to better understand and teach the pose to one another.

Sharing the love for kid’s yoga doesn’t always have to be organized.

Long before I began teaching in a studio, my son and I would roll out our mats together inside or in the backyard. Today, when my niece and nephews visit, it is usually requested that we find a moment to play and practice together.

Yoga is a non-competitive practice—you are never too young or too old to embrace it.

Still think a yoga practice is for grown-ups only?

Over a decade ago, the University of California found that children who experienced yoga instruction on a regular basis had greater self-esteem, overall fitness, and academic performance.  There was even a decrease in discipline problems. These students also said they felt more relaxed and were more respectful of their peers.

Who doesn’t want to help our children love themselves, respect others and appreciate this life they have been given more deeply?

Just like you and me, the benefits of yoga for children are endless. No, it isn’t a fad or even “one more thing”to add to their list.

Yoga is a gift that allows our children to better understand the body, mind, and spirit connection. A gift that is sure to benefit their personal growth and formation.

 

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Photo: Courtesy of author

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Whitney Simpson

Whitney Simpson is a certified and registered (R-HYI) yoga instructor who has completed the 225 hour teacher training program with Brooke Boon and Holy Yoga Ministries, a community of Christian instructors from across the world. Whitney has also completed several specialty yoga trainings including Chair/Senior Yoga and Curvy Yoga. She believes yoga is for everyone, regardless of age or physical ability. She loves teaching a variety of ages from kids to seniors and seeks to share the physical and spiritual benefits of movement and breath. Her training in Hatha yoga includes an emphasis on breath and flowing postures to awaken the spirit both on and off the mat.  Whitney began practicing yoga as part of her recovery after a stroke and brain surgery in 2005 at age 31. Yoga has been foundational for Whitney’s path to recovery.  She is also certified in spiritual formation and as a lay minister serving as a spiritual director and retreat leader. Connect with Whitney at www.exploringpeace.com or via Twitter. (Author picture courtesy of Stephanie Moors Photography.)