7 Simple Pieces of Advice for Teaching Yoga to Kids
I think now more than ever kids can really benefit from the gifts that the yoga practice brings. I notice how much my boys crave the connection and quiet time they find on their mat. Yoga also sparks creativity and confidence in them. Today kids are on their devices and being raised in a fast paced, social media driven society. Yoga means to unite. When kids practice yoga, they can unite their minds and bodies and find some peace of mind. They also learn how to rely their own instincts and tap into their potential.
I truly wish I had started at a much younger age. I teach family yoga geared towards kids age 3-8 and tweens 9-12 years old on the Peloton app (download it and try it for free 30 days!). I highly recommend checking it out with your kids. You can also just roll out a mat and get started on your own.
Here are 7 simple tips to teaching yoga to your kids:
Yoga has to be fun!
Give yourself the freedom to customize your yoga practice, re-name poses and even invent new ones. My boys and I create Pikachu poses or pick a theme like going to the zoo and take turn making different animal shapes. You can do freeze dance yoga and strike a pose when the music stops or create chants for warrior poses. “I am Brave Warrior” for instance. Older kids love the fun as well; but also love a challenge. Show them crow pose and other challenging postures they can work on. And I like to introduce themes for older kids, such as heart opening or not letting others define your self worth.
Co Create the class with your students
Allow time for the kids to create the class as well. Give them choices and perhaps vote on poses that they want to practice. Transform the class from YOUR class to OUR class, so that the kids are more invested in what they are practicing. Allow them to be the leaders; and get comfortable with teaching what they want to learn.
Set safe boundaries
Allowing the children to have fun is great; but set some safe boundaries as well. Having some ground rules from the beginning allows the kids to feel secure and know the rules. The most important rule is RESPECT. Yoga is a place for us to respect ourself and others. Children will be more willing to listen and learn when they have some structure and realize how good it feels to create a safe, respectful place to grow. Always make sure to gather the kids’ attention before giving instruction ensuring they hear what you are saying.
Remember the class is nothing like your adult class
Children’s growing bodies and developing minds are very different from adults. Most adults want to attend a yoga class; but this might not be the same for children. Often it is the parent’s idea to send their child to a yoga class so they may arrive sluggish, and hungry. Be patient, and compassionate and be sure to find something positive to highlight about their practice. Often times, my son Robert prefers to watch and do his own thing; and I let him do it! He will join in when he is ready. Yoga meets you where you are at. You can even have other activities available to fit all your student’s needs. Perhaps offer a yoga coloring book or just let them observe the class. Yoga is more than just the physical aspect anyways!
Use kid friendly positive feedback
Giving feedback to your students encourages them to continue what they are doing; and keep them coming back for more. Do a happy dance when they do a good job or give them feedback like, ” Wow! Amazing! You’re a superhero!” Kids also love rewards they can bring home. Printing out some super cute certificates with yogi’s on them or make mala mantra bead braclets at the end of a workshop or a program for a great take-away.
Ease up on poses and alignment
If your students are having fun and are safe, then that’s all that matters. At a young age showing them what the poses are is enough; and as they continue to practice into adulthood, they can learn more about alignment. At this stage in their lives your only goal is to give kids a positive experience of yoga. You can teach them the basic poses and what they represent and still keep it joyful and simple.
Build a Community
Make sure to be kind to everyone and not be too strict in your teaching, they are children after all. You never lose by giving. Come at least 15 minutes before and stay at least 15 minutes after, that way the kids are free to speak to you and ask any questions they may have. These questions may be about yoga, but they could also be about life in general. Be interested in their stories and their likes and dislikes. Always use the child’s name and bond with them in a personal way. Creating a community for the parents too is very important. Some parents come for the yoga; but also for the social aspect. Encourage conversations and you’ll make lifelong friendships.
It is a gift to be able to share yoga with children. There are so many benefits to starting yoga at a young age. Let’s create a community of little yogi’s!
Kristin McGee is a celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor in New York City. She is currently teaching yoga with Peloton. She is the star of over 100 videos, seen in several magazines and tv shows and is a spokeswoman for many brands and causes she believes in. A proud mom to three, she sure keeps herself busy!