By: Kerry McKenzie
As a yoga instructor, I have had the pleasure to teach a broad range of ages. One of my favorite classes is a family yoga class where the students’ ages range from 3 to 50+. Ever wonder how children learn yoga, especially when they are so young? Imagination and a free spirit help the young learn in many ways! You can conduct your own yoga session at home by following what I did in class. You don’t even need a mat. Just use a towel or blanket so everyone involved has their own space.
At the beginning of the class, as everyone sets up their yoga mats and mingles, I play, "I Like to Move" on the ChoosyNation music CD. I encourage dancing and moving to music to get the “jitter bugs” out.
As a warm-up, I lead the class through several animal poses like giraffe, kangaroo, eagle, downward dog, upward dog, cat, cow, cobra, shark, swan, and dolphin. You can even make up your own! During each pose, I ask the participants what else they think the pose looks like. For instance, cat could also be a tiger and cow could be a howling wolf. Within each pose, we also try to make the animal noises. Practice this especially with those who are still learning their animals and sounds!
I then walk the group through a flow of poses, moving in and out of postures using the dragon’s breath (sticking your tongue out and pretending fire is coming out your mouth on exhales). The dragon then spreads its wings, lifts its tail (one leg lifted in down dog), then surrenders as the belly is now facing up toward the sky. Finally, the dragon comes alive and flies back home with its wings wide and standing tall. The children in class love to imagine this and really get into it. I played “Puff the Magic Dragon” with this yoga flow. You could also incorporate a lion pose while playing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”
Another fun thing to do is play a freeze game using “Choosy Freeze" by Choosy Kids and your yoga mat, towel or blanket. Start the music and move about the room. When the music prompts everyone to freeze, jump onto a mat/towel/blanket and do your favorite yoga pose or make one up. I have learned some cool poses from young yogis.
You can also do partner yoga. For instance, the adult can do a child’s pose on the floor and then a child can climb on top of the adult and do child’s pose on top. You can see this in the picture. Children can do boat pose with their feet pressing together and holding hands and parents can try to crawl under. Then switch the roles. I renamed the pose bridge and we sang “London Bridges”. This is also in the picture! During the other partner poses the music I chose was “Lean On Me” and “Stand By Me.”
Yoga is a great way to relax, increase your strengthen and flexibility or a great partner activity! Have you tried yoga with your children? How old are they? What do you and they like best about it?
About the Author: Kerry McKenzie, B.A., M.S., has been working in education for more than 13 years. She is a Certified Health Coach, a 500 level (E-RYT500) yoga teacher and specializes in early childhood motor development. She has a passion for working with expecting moms, babies, toddlers and preschool age children and their caregivers at Greenville Health Systems pediatric clinic, child care centers and in the community. Click here to learn more about Kerry.