Yoga calms the mind while stretching and strengthening the body, making it an excellent activity to do with kids—especially energetic ones. When practicing yoga, children learn how to listen to their bodies and notice their thoughts (skills many adults are still working on!).
Most kids aren’t ready for the type of full hour-long yoga classes adults enjoy, but that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from the practice. Through yoga, kids learn how to find a sense of inner calm and self-esteem as well as developing flexibility, strength, and balance.
For best results, adapt your yoga approach to suit your child’s attention and personality: return often to favourite poses, and if your child gets restless, take it as a cue to stop and try again another day!
Here are some of my favorite tips for practicing yoga with preschool-age children:
Keep it fun!
One of the biggest differences between doing yoga with my son and doing yoga on my own is the level of seriousness from the participants.
When I’m teaching a standard yoga class, I often hear groans of frustration when someone “can’t do” a yoga pose the way they think it can be done. Practicing with a preschooler, this is never the case! My son balances in whatever version of the pose feels best to him, and giggles. He’ll say, “Now I’ll try again!” if he falls out of the pose.
As a yoga teacher, I sometimes have to fight the urge to correct him, when I want him to relocate his foot or move his arm, but seeing the joy on his face reminds me that it’s really me who should be amending my yoga practice. As long as something doesn’t look dangerous or painful, you can allow your kids to keep trying in their own way.
Related read: 12 reasons yoga is great for kids
If you’ve ever attended a kids’ yoga class, you know there are lots of stories and sounds involved. If you’re going to be practicing with your child and want them to stay engaged, you need to make it fun (meowing and mooing during cat/cow pose is a must!).
This goes for breathing too. My son has loved it when I let out a loud, roaring lion’s breath since he was about a year old. Now we do it together, whether we are “officially” practicing yoga or I just need a break!
Play a game
We have Yoga Pretzel Cards, which are essentially yoga playing cards with different poses, breathing exercises, and activities. Sometimes we play a game where we line up a bunch of pose cards and do them one by one without stopping.
We’ve also adapted a card called “Yogi Says,” which is basically Simon Says but with yoga poses. This is a great way to burn up some energy, work on focus and listening, and just have a blast. Sometimes I rename poses on the spot to make them more kid-friendly. Other times I ask my son to do it for me. I’m always surprised at what he comes up with!
Remember: you can do yoga anywhere
This is one of my favorite things about yoga for myself and for my son. I have a very high-energy child, and sometimes I need him to let out some energy and calm down a bit at the same time. Enter yoga. I’ve walked out of restaurants with him when he’s having trouble sitting still so we can do some snake breathing or volcano poses, and we’ve done cat/cow in the library when he feels the urge to move. With a little imagination, the world can be your yoga mat!