How to get your child to do yoga?
How to get your child to start doing yoga?
As parents we love our children and naturally want the very best for them, so how can we equip them with tools to improve their physical and emotional wellbeing to better cope with all that is thrown at them in their busy life? Whether getting to grips with tons of new ideas, or coping with school, making new friendships or perhaps repairing old ones, growing up can be complicated and sometimes stressful for them. That’s why I believe that introducing yoga into your children’s every day life can help them lead more balanced and happier lives.
But how to inspire your child to do yoga?
If you’re a yogi yourself, you will already know how yoga helps strengthen the body as well as helping to calm the mind. Introducing this ‘yoga bliss’ to your children can have a big impact on their ability to cope with daily challenges and cultivate a peaceful mind. Even if you’re completely new to yoga or have only just started learning it’s very easy to share the experience and benefits of yoga with your children.
However, juggling our daily routines of ferrying kids to nursery or school, scheduled weekly sports and dance classes, little buddy’s birthday parties, and perhaps on top of that, a few tantrums thrown in, can leave us exhausted. The idea of adding yet another activity into our kid’s life and our own too seems almost impossible! But it can be done.
There are different ways to introduce yoga into your family life. The first that most likely comes to mind, is to seek a local kids yoga class. Kids yoga classes are now often readily available, especially in bigger cities where usually a variety are being offered. Also, some schools include yoga in their school curriculum now, embracing the beneficial outcomes to the overall health for the kids, and often, resulting in better grade point averages too.
If adding another class will take up too much time, or there isn’t a good local option here are a few other simple ideas to try at home:
• Encourage your children to join you on the mat:
If you’re already a yoga practitioner simply include your kids in your yoga practice. Roll out another mat alongside yours or even let them share your mat. Encourage them to become part of your practice and create a story around different poses. Imagine you’re a bridge to crawl under when in downward dog or become small and quiet as a mouse when in child pose. Use your imagination, and ask for your kid’s input to choose yoga poses based around a story that evolves as you go along, while breathing in long steady breaths, sensing what is required in that moment and adapting your practice to your kid’s needs.
• Do a 5 minute stretch yoga routine every morning when your child wakes up:
Simply roll out of bed and get started. This short routine can be done in your PJs, and is a wonderful way to greet the day together with your child and wake up happy. Start with standing tall with your arms by your side. Take a deep breath and raise your arms above your head, look up and spread your fingers wide, say “I am strong”. Then fold forward, breathe out, relax the torso and arms towards the ground, say “I am kind”. Step your feed back, inhale, place your knees down and slide forward onto your belly and straighten your body on to the floor as you exhale. Then inhale, place your hands underneath your shoulders and gently lift your upper body pushing the floor away from you, say “I am brave”. Exhale, as you come onto your knees and hands again and push up to downward dog*, say “I am happy”. Inhale, step your feet between your hands and fold into a forward bend as you exhale, then inhale and come up to standing, raise your hands above your head, exhale and bring them back down next to your body, say “I am wise”. Repeat 3-5 times.
*Come onto your hands and knees and make the shape of a table top with your body. Open your fingers wide and lift your hips up to the sky. Push your hands down into the mat and straighten your legs. Your spine is long and straight, your neck relaxed.
• Combine yoga poses with a bedtime story:
When it’s time to calm down for the evening choose seated or supine poses. Close your eyes, slow down your breathing and encourage your child to copy you. Make up a good night story; for example ask your child to imagine all the forest animals who have been busy foraging through the forest and are now slowing down for a night’s rest. Take your child’s lead to think of an animal, then create a pose for it together, all the while, breathing slowly and resting in each pose for 3-5 breaths.
Finish with Shavasana**, also called corpse pose. Ask your child to scrunch their muscles tight one by one and then relax them. Start with the toes and work all the way up the body to the head, all the while encouraging to take deep breaths. This is a great yoga relaxation technique and can help set your child up for a good night sleep.
** Shavasana pose: This pose is traditionally done at the end of your yoga practice. Lie on your back with your eyes closed. Open your arms and legs a little and turn your palms up and relax your whole body. Try to hold completely still and do absolutely nothing but listen to the sound of your breath. Relax completely in this pose for 5-10 minutes. This posture will leave you feeling serene and deeply relaxed but also refreshed and alert.
• Set up a ‘happy’ altar in a specific place in your home:
Some parents have had lots of fun setting up a happy yoga altar at home. The word altar may be misleading in the context of yoga, as this is not a ‘religious’ altar, but a restful area for your child to go to, with or without another family member. Encourage your child to practice Shavasana and enjoy a peaceful moment. Let your child decorate the altar by placing items on it, for example, a ‘happy’ picture they have drawn themselves, a jar filled with colourful marbles, a photo of their hero, or adding flowers they picked; an item your child has a positive connection with. Place some cushions around your altar, make it cosy and comfortable and a place they want to spend time in.
If you’re new to yoga yourself, there are lots of online kids yoga videos you can choose from, or books available with simple yoga moves the whole family can enjoy. Once you get into a routine, you quickly start learning the different poses you can do with your child and start building up your own yoga poses repertoire.
Other fun ideas include:
If you and your child enjoy singing, give chanting a go. The rhythmic breathing and repetitiveness of the chant provides a change of pace to a hectic day and helps quieten a busy mind. Chants have a naturally soothing effect on the mind and help your child’s concentration. To start with, try a simple ‘OM’. Seat yourself comfortably and cross legged on a cushion, close your eyes, then take a deep breath, followed by exhaling the sound ‘OM’. Repeat as many times as you wish. You may start together, but the chanting doesn’t need to be coordinated with your child. You can both chant at your own pace so that your OMs, when overlapping, start turning into one continuous soothing OM sound. Many chants are also readily available for download on the internet, or you can make up your own – the sky’s your limit.
When introducing your child to meditation, lead by example, ideally you will have developed your own meditation practice already. Sitting still and quietly is not an easy task, not just for children, it takes practice for us adults too! When starting to meditate with your child, keep an open mind, let go of expectations. Depending on your child’s age, 2-5 minutes will be about right for a beginner, above all, this should be an enjoyable experience. There are different ways to meditate, from my own experience storytelling is a fun way to introduce kids to meditation, we all enjoy a good story. Meditation stories for kids are readily available for download or listening online, or you can make up your own story.
Try not to think of yoga as another task to add to your busy family schedule, remind yourself to approach it is simply a relaxing family activity allowing you to spend meaningful time together and learning together, creating a routine that becomes naturally part of family life. With time, yoga will cultivate this sense of open-mindedness between you and your child while helping to establish a healthy habit and toolkit for coping with life’s challenges from an early age. When things get too hectic throughout your day, stop and remind yourself to take a moment, do a few yoga poses or simply sit still and take a few deep breaths and always invite your child to join in.
Ommie and the Magical Garden kids yoga story book:
I am a parent too. My mission with Ommie is to positively impact children through the benefits of yoga, equipping them with tools that will enable them to lead a more balanced and happy life.
The common thread in all the stories is the main character Ommie, who takes children on adventures which are all based on mindfulness principles, as well as respect for others and our environment. I found that children responded better to a ‘character’ helping them with the yoga postures and telling them the story.
The aim of each story, as well as to teach new yoga postures, is to help them understand happiness comes from within and by simply enjoying the world around them. Ommie and the Magical Garden is the first in a range of stories that are aimed at children aged 3 to 7 years. However, I know of a few older ones who love spending time with Ommie too, so there’s no real age limit! www.ommie.co.uk