Yoga for children and teens is similar to yoga for adults in that it is a personal and collective experience offering us an opportunity to go within, and encourages us to find deeper connection within ourselves for more fulfilling connection with others. The word yoga means ‘to unite.’
I believe how we each connect to yoga is very different and needs to be honoured. Ask anyone who practices how they came to it. Was it through the physical practice? Meditation? Breathwork? Vedic story and writings? In that same vein, we need to respect where each of us are at and appreciate that children come to yoga for their own reasons too. We also need to respect that we each learn differently.
That being said, there are some big differences between how we approach yoga for each age group. Young children (under 7) are in the process of grounding or coming into their bodies, so physical experiences such as yoga, can greatly support this development. Between 0-7 years they learn primarily through play and their senses – generally visually and kinetic dominant. As we grow and develop we have other needs, including understanding and supporting our physical and emotional experiences, and awareness of that of others. This is especially important to foster at a young age, to empower children with healthy coping skills for emotional resilience before they transition through their tween and teen years, to become healthy adults.
14 Benefits of Yoga
Improves body awareness – strength, balance, coordination, endurance, flexibility (when age-appropriate) + proprioception
Greater mind-body-emotion (somato-emotional) connection + interoceptive skills for healthier, happier, more peaceful lives
Understanding emotions, the science behind them + tools for emotional resilience
Tools for greater independence + collaboration with others, including cultural appreciation to understand their roots + encourage empathy
Awareness of other’s emotions, needs + development of empathy
Communication + leadership skills for greater confidence
Understanding personal boundaries, body autonomy, and respect for others
Greater self-acceptance, positive body-image + development of self-care practices
Development of healthy coping skills for resilient children
Improves focus, memory, concentration, and self-discipline
Better sleep + tools to self-soothe
How You Can Practice Yoga at Home with Your Kids
With children under 7 years, get creative through movement with them. Allow them to guide you and create their own poses with full expression – sounds and all! When we make sounds, we need to breathe… so we are actually also doing breathwork! You can also lay down with them and place a stuffy on their stomach so they can watch their breath move their body. Ask them how they feel after. How do you feel!?
Between 8 and 11 years you can create a little class with them – maybe you take turns leading the poses to music. See who can hold the pose the longest for a fun challenge! Breathe through the poses, make sounds, have fun! Include a calming practice where you both notice the sensations in your body – your breath, your heart beat, and any other sensations that may come up. You can read more about Somatoemotional Awareness here.
Youth 12 and up would love to be included in your practice! If you practice at home or go to a studio, have them join you! Creating an evening ritual is especially helpful at this age, as anxiety due to changes and pressures can be at a high. Help them create a self-care practice that soothes them – a personal flow of movement, followed by legs up the wall and slowing down the breath. Notice the breath, sensations, and emotions that may come up. What is your body trying to tell you. Journaling can be very helpful to note this down and let it out. Return to slow, deep breathing.
Katie of gloWithin is an Expert Registered Yoga Teacher (ERYT), Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher (RCYT), Craniosacral Healer, and has her own Registered Children’s Yoga School (RCYS) with Yoga Alliance. She feels fortunate to have a wise Mama who taught her meditation and breathwork tools as a child, which has offered her healthy-coping skills and serves as her life purpose to share these simple tools with other parents and children. She is a mama to almost 2 children (due in July with her second), and is passionate about what she does and empowering others! You are welcome to read more about Katie here and connect with her on IG or Facebook @theglowithinyou.