By Teresa Anne Power
Although people realize the numerous health benefits of yoga for adults, they may not realize that kids can reap the same benefits from practicing yoga. According to theMayo Clinic, “Yoga can be a gentle method for your child to get more physical activity and enhance his or her well-being.”
Yoga can allow kids to learn discipline, enhance athletic performance, heighten body awareness and self-control, build both strength and flexibility, and increase concentration and focus. It can also help kids feel empowered, and helps them stay calm (even kids with ADD or ADHD). This translates into healthier minds and bodies, not to mention better performance at school.
Teaching children about the merits and health benefits of exercising can be challenging for any parent. While some kids are entirely receptive to different exercises that you might present, others may be resistant. The good news is that the following this 5-minute-a-day yoga routine for kids is not only fun, but can also enthrall your child and instill effective health benefits at the same time.
5-Minute-a-Day Child Yoga Sequence
Try to have children practice yoga in a quiet space, wearing comfortable clothes. A yoga mat can help young children to create their own personal space to practice, but if you don’t have a mat, kids can always practice without one. For young children, each pose should be held anywhere from 8 to 15 seconds. As it takes time to get into the poses, the counting should begin once the child is actually in the posture. Once the poses are mastered, kids can hold them for a longer period of time.
1. Candle Pose (pictured above): Helps children to start to focus on their breath, and also helps them to transition from what they were doing before practicing yoga to the yoga practice itself. Remind kids to breathe in and out through the nose when practicing yoga poses. Nasal breathing calms children down and gets more oxygen into the lungs, as opposed to mouth breathing, which can lead to hyperventilation.
2. Mouse Pose: Helps to calm children as they simply relax and breathe quietly in and out through their nose. Young children can pretend that they are as quiet as mice.
3. Cow Pose: Warms up the spine. As kids arch their back they can inhale and say “Moo.” Then have them exhale and round their spine.
4. Cat Pose: Lengthens the back and creates a natural human traction for the spine. Young kids can say “Meow” while in the posture.
5. Gate Pose: Stretches the side of the body and works on balance, strength, flexibility and focus.
6. Dog Pose: Also known as Downward Facing Dog, this yoga posture stretches the hamstrings, calves, arches and hands. At the same time it strengthens the arms, shoulders and back. Young kids can “Bark” like dogs while in the pose.
7. Mouse Pose: A relaxation pose that gently stretches the hips, thighs and ankles. Should be repeated again in this sequence.
8. Do Nothing Pose: This is a good posture to end the yoga practice with. Have kids lie still in this pose, simply breathing in and out through the nose. They can even close their eyes or cover them with a small washcloth or eye pillow to keep the light out. See if they can be still for 120 seconds (2 minutes). This posture seals in all the benefits of the previous poses they practiced.
Today’s kids are facing challenges such as competition, anxiety, bullying, ADHD, autism and obesity; it is important for them to create healthy habits as early as possible. Children of all ages and sizes and varying degrees of athletic abilities can practice yoga, a non-competitive form of exercise. Indeed, yoga nourishes the mind, body and spirit and paves the way for a life-long tradition of health and fitness.