Practicing yoga with children is one way to build a great relationship with them. Doing simple yoga poses together can help both parent and child to relax, be in the moment, and obtain physical activity at the same time.
Many children lead rather stressful lifestyles that include constant lessons, test-taking, early mornings, long days, competitive sports, and a variety of other elements that can leave them unfocused and worn out. Parents are also under daily stress with work and family obligations. In addition, children are being raised in a digital environment where cell phones, iPads, computers and TVs are the norm. While technology once lived in our world, we now live in a world of technology.
Taking a yoga break together can help parents and kids to unwind from all the input of digital technology, as well as from the daily stresses they may encounter. Yoga is accessible for adults and children of all ages and sizes and varying degrees of athletic abilities. The reason yoga can be practiced by anyone from a young child to an older adult is because the poses are meant to be practiced at one’s individual pace; they are but a means to an end – to become aware of one’s body, mind and spirit connection. For thousands of years people have been practicing yoga in order to feel at peace with themselves.
There are a myriad of yoga poses parents can do with their children, without too much strain. While yoga is often perceived as a passive activity, it is in reality an engaging form of exercise. As peaceful and centering as yoga can be, children also benefit from its physical strengthening; maintaining the poses requires effort from young muscles. Yoga is a natural and healthy way for parents to bond with their children, and the poses provide exercise, at no cost, for both parent and child.
What is the earliest age parents can start practicing yoga with their child?
Babies instinctively do certain yoga poses as part of their natural range of motion. Parents can bond with their babies by doing simple yoga stretches such as the Butterfly pose pictured below
Children can start doing simple yoga poses on their own as early as 2 years old; during these formative years they are very impressionable and open to new ideas and concepts. In addition, since yoga instills non-competitive skills, it is a huge boost for a young child’s self-esteem.
The way to engage children in a family yoga practice is to make it fun for them. Actress and mother, Mariel Hemingway says “Yoga offers so many benefits to mind, body, and soul that it’s wonderful to start kids at a young age. The best way to do that is to make it fun.”
Here are five simple yoga poses to jump start your family yoga time
These postures can be practiced any time of the day; however, try not to eat immediately before, as many of the poses twist across digestive organs. There are no time constraints to practice yoga with your child; even 5 minutes a day can go a long way in establishing a routine of healthy physical activity together.
Keep it simple so that children can be successful. You can start by holding the poses for 8-10 seconds. It’s better to start slowly and develop gradually. No mat is necessary; you can always practice on a towel or carpet.
This posture is a great way to start your family yoga practice. Simply kneel on the floor with your hands in prayer position in front of your heart. Then slowly begin to inhale and exhale through your nose several times to transition from what you were doing before your yoga time.
This posture stretches the spine to prepare it for other poses. Starting on all fours, arch your back and inhale through your nose. Then exhale through your nose and round your spine. Do this several times before going onto the next posture. You can even have your child say “Moo” while doing the pose.
Start on your hands and knees and then slowly straighten your legs and lift your hips into the air. Look down at your toes and take several deep breaths in and out through your nose before coming out of the pose.
From a seated position put your head on the floor and sit back on your heels. Bring your arms alongside your body, and simply focus on breathing in and out through your nose.
5. Do Nothing Pose
After practicing yoga, it is always important to take at least 2 minutes to relax so that your body can absorb all the benefits of the more active poses. Lie on your back, with your arms alongside you and your palms facing the ceiling. You can even play a soothing song while in this posture to help your body to relax.
Enjoy the time spent bonding with your child through yoga. Parents are role models for their children, and if you can take time to practice yoga with them you are giving them a great gift which will benefit them for years to come!